Submarine Cable Map

Submarine Cable Map (submarinecablemap.com)


TEMPORA is a GCHQ programme for physically tapping fibre-optic cablesto collect data in bulk. The programme collects content and metadata that travels over fibre-optic cables around the world, including cables entering and exiting the UK (GUA01). The programme taps at least 200 cables at various locations (GUA01).

TEMPORA stores the collected data in a buffer to enable retrospective analysis. Content is stored for three days, and metadata for 30 days (GUA01).

The TEMPORA programme incorporates bulk data from the INCENSER programme (ORG01). Data collected by TEMPORA is shared with the NSA through the WINDSTOP programme, and can be analysed using the XKEYSCORE search interface and a search language called GENESIS (ORG01, EFF01).


Data sources:

  • Cable taps installed at the following locations (EFF01):
    • 16 x 10 gigabit/second cables at the CPC processing center
    • 7 x 10 gigabit/second cables at the OPC processing center
    • 23 x 10 gigabit/second cables at the RPC1 processing center
  • The centres above have been associated with the following locations (ESP01):
    • Benhall, Cheltenham (GCHQ headquarters)
    • Bude station (Cornwall)
    • Ayios Nikolaos station (Cyprus)

Related programmes:

POKERFACE – GCHQ programme using MVR (Massive Volume Reduction) for high-speed filtering and selection, including removal of high-volume, low-value traffic such as peer-to-peer downloads. Also searches by ‘trigger’ words, email addresses and phone numbers.

XKEYSCORE – NSA system for searching and analysing Internet data.

INCENSER – GCHQ bulk collection programme that provides access to a cable system codenamed NIGELLA, which is the intersection of two fibre-optic cables connecting the Atlantic with Europe and Asia (ORG01, ELE01).

WINDSTOP – NSA umbrella programme for bulk collection in partnership with “trusted second party” countries (UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). The programme targets “communications into and out of Europe and the Middle East” (ELE01).

Layers of operation:


The GCHQ cable-tapping operation has been built up over five years by attaching intercept probes to transatlantic fibre-optic cables where they land on British shores carrying data between Western Europe, Asia and North America. This was done under secret agreements with commercial companies, described in one document as “intercept partners” (GUA01).

In 2015, GCHQ was censured for conducting bulk collection activities and sharing this information with the NSA (GUA02).

Company partners (GUA03, ORG01):

  • BT (codenamed REMEDY)
  • Vodafone Cable (GERONTIC)
  • Verizon Business (DACRON)
  • Global Crossing (PINNAGE)
  • Level 3 (LITTLE)
  • Viatel (VITREOUS)
  • Interoute (STREETCAR)


Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
1) https://www.eff.org/files/2014/06/23/gchq_report_on_the_technical_abilities_of_tempora.pdf

Electrospaces (ELE)
1) http://electrospaces.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/incenser-or-how-nsa-and-gchq-are.html

Espresso (ESP)
1) http://espresso.repubblica.it/inchieste/2013/11/04/news/the-history-of-british-intelligence-operations-in-cyprus-1.139978

Guardian (GUA)
1) http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communications-nsa
2) http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/aug/02/telecoms-bt-vodafone-cables-gchq
3) http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/feb/06/gchq-mass-internet-surveillance-unlawful-court-nsa

Open Rights Group (ORG)
1) https://www.openrightsgroup.org/assets/files/pdfs/reports/gchq/01-Part_One_Chapter_One-Passive_Collection.pdf

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