U.S. Developing ‘Internet in a Suitcase’ to Outflank Repressive Governments

The United States is spearheading an effort to maintain Internet and mobile phone service for citizens in countries where repressive governments use censorship or shut down telecommunications in the face of dissent, according to reports. The State Department-led project involves the building of independent phone networks in foreign countries and the creation of a USD 2-million prototype “Internet in a suitcase” by an entrepreneurial outfit operating out of a building on L Street in Washington, D.C., The New York Times reported. The idea is to fit innocent-looking hardware components into a package that could easily be snuck into a repressive country and quickly assembled to deliver wireless service across a wide area to maintain crucial communications between legitimately protesting citizens, according to The Times, which cited “dozens of interviews, planning documents and classified diplomatic cables” it obtained. In addition to the “Internet-in-a-suitcase” project, the State Department is funding “stealth wireless networks” in Iran, Syria, and Libya, among other countries. Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon are also teaming up on a USD 50-million project to build an independent cellphone network in Afghanistan—where the Taliban has been able to shut down service “seemingly at will” —with cell towers located on military bases in the country, the newspaper reported.




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