The paper said:
By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.
MUSCULAR, PRISM data collection programs
A top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, provided details about how the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records daily from Yahoo and Google internal networks to databases located at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.
In the 30 days prior, the report noted, field collectors processed and returned 181,280,466 new records, ranging from “metadata,” which can provide information about who actually sent and received emails and when and content like text, video and audio.
The Post reported:
The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.
The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.
But apparently, even that access – authorized by the USA Patriot Act – isn’t good enough. Obviously, the NSA wants no oversight of its activities at all.
The Post said the MUSCULAR project looked to be “an unusually aggressive use” of NSA capabilities against American tech companies. To be sure, the NSA is built to conduct high-tech spying, and has a wide range of digital tools at its disposal, but has no previous reputation of using them at will against U.S. firms.
Despite the revelations, no one in government wanted to talk about them on the record. “White House officials and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, declined to confirm, deny or explain why the agency infiltrates Google and Yahoo networks overseas,” the Post reported.
Privacy? What privacy?
Google released a statement saying the company was certainly “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity.”
“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links,” the company said.
A spokeswoman from Yahoo added: “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”
According to earlier releases of top secret information by Snowden, the PRISM program is used by the NSA to gather incredible amounts of online communications records through legal means; tech companies, via warrants issued by the secret FISA court, are compelled to turn over data matching the court’s approved search terms.
That program is authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“Intercepting communications overseas has clear advantages for the NSA, with looser restrictions and less oversight. NSA documents about the effort refer directly to ‘full take,’ ‘bulk access’ and ‘high volume’ operations on Yahoo and Google networks,” the Post reported. “Such large-scale collection of Internet content would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.”
In today’s online, interconnected world, America, you have no more privacy. That should be crystal clear by now.
Oh, and the NSA’s spying and data storage capability is only going to increase. The agency is building a massive new facility in Utah for just those purposes, among others: http://nsa.gov1.info.