US plans to offer analysis of underwater audio recordings to aid investigations into Nord Stream pipeline sabotage

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Washington
CNN

The United States is considering offering to use its most advanced underwater sound-reading capabilities to analyze audio recordings from the time of the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The US Navy’s processing of sonar signatures – the term for unique underwater sounds – provided by Sweden and Denmark could boost investigations by providing a more detailed picture of what was in the area at the time of the blasts. pipeline and what caused them, sources said. While many countries have the capability to process underwater sounds, the United States has the most advanced system, sources said.

Processing underwater sound is considered a key part of the investigation in addition to what underwater investigators find, sources said. Officials said satellite images from the days before the leaks likely wouldn’t be helpful because they were cloudy.

But the extent to which US assistance in processing underwater recordings might help will depend on the quality of the recordings. The quality of the recordings of the Swedes and Danes is unclear, sources said.

Each type of underwater machinery like submarines, torpedoes, and ship engines emits a unique sound called a “sonar signature”, and the United States has an extensive library of these sounds.

A Navy spokesman did not confirm that the United States was offering to analyze sonar recordings, but said the Navy stood ready to help with investigations.

“We are aware of reports of leaks in Nord Stream pipelines. We stand ready to provide support and assistance in close coordination with our allies and partners, if required,” said Captain Tamara Lawrence.

Sweden’s National Seismic Network (SNSN) said it detected the blasts and experts said SNSN may share recordings with the US for processing, but seismic recordings are not the same as high-quality sonar recordings .

“What they are looking for are known signatures of adversary class ships or known signatures associated with an act like opening a torpedo door. The goal is to determine what caused this. The quality of the data and the type of historical data in the database will determine how accurately they can attribute this event using sonar signatures,” explained Mark Montgomery, senior director of the Center on Cyber ​​and Technology. Innovation from the Foundation for Defense. of the Democracies.

The United States has helped analyze underwater recordings of Swedes in the past, experts said.

These conversations about providing this assistance come now as the US Department of Defense is doing “careful planning” to see what assets, equipment and technical expertise the US has at its disposal to help the Baltics with investigations, reported CNN last week.

The Swedish military has sent several vessels to the area around the incident to support the Swedish Coast Guard’s investigation, Swedish Armed Forces spokesman Philip Simon told CNN. At least one of those vessels is capable of capturing high-quality underwater recordings, Simon said. These recordings could prove useful to investigators, but it is unknown what type of recordings they have at the time of the sabotage.

“The use of acoustics and sonar technology will be very important here. It’s forensic evidence. It’s like getting an ultrasound from a doctor,” explained Joseph Mazzafro, a defense contractor and retired navy captain. “The United States has the best sensors in the world for detecting sound and extracting meaningful information from noise in the water. And we have people who understand the science of acoustics because the United States has been doing it for the 1940s. they know what submarines are like, underwater drilling, all that stuff. Then you add to that massive computing power and AI intelligence.

Swedish police were initially investigating the incident, but the Swedish Security Service, whose mandate includes national security matters, took over the investigation last week, according to Nina Odermalm Schei, spokeswoman for the service.

This transfer from a criminal investigation to a national security investigation occurs when it cannot be ruled out that one or more foreign powers are involved in a security incident, Schei told CNN by phone from Sweden.

The explosions that caused the Nord Stream pipelines to leak are a “really complex” and “serious crime”, Schei said, adding that the investigation may take time to follow its course. She declined to comment on who might be behind the explosions.

Swedish coastguard spokesman Mattias Lindholm said the Swedish vessels available to help with the investigation were technologically sophisticated, but declined to go into specifics.

“We have the capabilities that the prosecutor is interested in moving the investigation forward,” Lindholm said.

The investigation comes as the Biden administration also seeks to guard against any future attacks on critical infrastructure. The United States is coordinating with its allies to increase surveillance and control of energy infrastructure, including pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

“The United States has capabilities to implement, and we are implementing them,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Friday.

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