Singpore is under the spotlight following the latest revelations that it is a key "third party" in providing intelligence on Malaysia to the "Five-Eyes" intelligence grouping.
According to top secret documents leaked by former United States intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the city state, along with South Korea, were playing key roles in helping the US and Australia tap telecommunications links across Asia on the Internet backbone -- undersea fibre optic cables that shuttle online communications between countries.
The Australian Fairfax Media, in a report, said a top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) map showed that the US and its partners -- the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand -- had tapped high-speed fibre optic cables at 20 locations worldwide.
The interception operation, it added, involved cooperation with local governments and telecommunications companies, or through "covert, clandestine" operations.
"The undersea cable interception operations are part of a global web that, in the words of another leaked NSA document, enable the 'Five-Eyes' to trace 'anyone, anywhere, anytime' in what is described as 'the golden age' of signals intelligence.
"The NSA map, published by Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, shows that the US maintains a stranglehold on Trans Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the west coast of the US and in Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean, as well as links between Australia and Japan," it said.
The report added that the map confirmed that Singapore, one of the world's most significant telecommunications hubs, was a key "third party" working with the "Five-Eyes" intelligence partners.
In August, Fairfax reported that Australia's electronic espionage agency, the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), was in a partnership with Singapore intelligence to tap the SEA-ME-WE-3 (Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 3) cable that ran from Japan, via Singapore, Djibouti, the Suez Canal in Egypt and the Straits of Gibraltar, to northern Germany.
The SEA-ME-WE-3 also runs through Malaysia, where it has a cable landing point in Mersing, Johor. Australia is connected to this line by a link from Tuas, located in the western side of Singapore, to Perth.
Fairfax quoted Australian intelligence sources, who said the highly secretive Security and Intelligence Division of Singapore's Defence Ministry, cooperated with DSD in accessing and sharing communications carried by the more than 39,000km-long SEA-ME-WE-3 cable, as well as the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable that ran from Singapore to the south of France.
"Access to this major international telecommunications channel, facilitated by Singapore's government-owned operator SingTel, has been a key element in an expansion of Australian-Singaporean intelligence and defence ties over the past 15 years," it said.