WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
A secret accounting dated Jan. 9 indicates that NSA sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency's Fort Meade, Md., headquarters. In the last 30 days, field collectors had processed and sent back more than 180 million new records — ranging from "metadata," which would indicate who sent or received emails and when, to content such as text, audio and video, the Post reported Wednesday on its website.
The latest revelations were met with outrage from Google, and triggered legal questions.
The NSA's principal tool to exploit the Google and Yahoo data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency's British counterpart, GCHQ. The Post said NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.
In an interview with Bloomberg News on Wednesday, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander was asked if the NSA has infiltrated Yahoo and Google databases, as detailed in the Post story.
"Not to my knowledge," said Alexander. "We are not authorized to go into a U.S. company's servers and take data. We'd have to go through a court process for doing that."