Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The U.S. government had a problem: Spying in the digital age required access to the fiber-optic cables traversing the world’s oceans, carrying torrents of data at the speed of light. And one of the biggest operators of those cables was being sold to an Asian firm, potentially complicating American surveillance efforts. Enter “Team Telecom.” In months of private talks, the team of lawyers from the FBI and the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security demanded that the company maintain what amounted to an internal corporate cell of American citizens with government clearances. Among their jobs, documents show, was ensuring that surveillance requests got fulfilled quickly and confidentially.What one discovers is that law matters -- but in an odd way. Here, the US government used the leverage of its power to approve (or reject) a corporate takeover as a means of ensuring its continued access to the fiber optic network. It's a useful and cautionary tale.