NSA scoops data secretly from Yahoo, Google data centers

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The U.S. National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links connecting Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

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The newspaper cited classified documents leaked by former defense contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials to disclose the NSA operations against the Internet companies.

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the agency “sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters.”

In the preceding 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent back over 180 million new records including “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received emails and when, as well as text, audio and video, according to the report.

By tapping those links, the agency could collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans, the newspaper reported.

The NSA’s main tool to exploit such data links is a project called MUSCULAR and operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ.

The two agencies “are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants,” the newspaper reported.

In a statement provided to the newspaper, Google said it is “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers,” and not aware of the activity.

A Yahoo spokeswoman told the newspaper that the company has not given access to its data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.

Under another disclosed program coded “PRISM,” the NSA has already gathered huge volumes of online communications records by legally compelling U.S. technology companies, including Yahoo and Google. The program is authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. PNA

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