Chinese Balloon Shot Down Galaxy S23 Ultra: Hands-On Netflix Password-Sharing Crackdown Super Bowl Ads Google's Answer to ChatGPT 'Knock at the Cabin' Review 'The Last of Us' Episode 4 Foods for Mental Health
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

The newest Internet whodunnit? Who cut the cables?

According to the official explanation, it's a mundane matter. But the news was enough to send conspiracy theorists out in force.

Three undersea fiber-optic cables get cut in just one week, and the conspiracy crowd is already convinced this is the prelude to World War III--or at the very least, a United States bombing assault on Iran.

Truth be told, I'm not ready to dismiss their paranoia completely. Yes, they are nuts but they're not entirely crazy. Look, outside of a handful of Washington insiders, how many of you really thought after September 11 that we'd be in control of Iraq, come winter 2008? Poll

What or who caused the undersea cable rupture?

Normal wear and tear
Secret ops warfare
Dick Cheney was bonefishing in the area

View results

The cable cuts knocked out Internet service in a good chunk of the Middle East and South Asia. (There are reports of a fourth cable out of service but so far that's unconfirmed.) What's behind the disruptions? Two of the cables are owned by Flag Telecom, the other by a consortium of telcos. At this point, the companies suggest the most likely culprit is Mother Nature.

In the absence of further details, that's as plausible an answer as any. But the official explanation has been drowned out by a .

My former CNET colleague John Borland has a great piece up at the ABC News site outlining the sequence of what's known so far. In particular, this nugget:

"Undersea cable damage is hardly rare--indeed, more than 50 repair operations were mounted in the Atlantic alone last year, according to marine cable repair company Global Marine Systems. But last week's breaks came at one of the world's bottlenecks, where Net traffic for whole regions is funneled along a single route. "

Not that any rational explanation is going to suffice in our fevered times. After the news broke, one 2003 U.S. government document began to make the rounds as Exhibit No. 1. The heavily redacted Department of Defense information operations report specifically calls out the Internet as potentially an enemy weapons system. (Decide what you will. Here's the link to the report.)