NSA Chief Denies Agency Taps Google And Yahoo

Shot down report that spy agency has access to company data centers

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The head of the National Security Agency on Wednesday denied a report that the spy agency has directly intercepted communications passing through Yahoo and Google data centers.

“That’s never happened,” Gen. Keith Alexander told Bloomberg News during a conference it held in Washington. Calling the report “factually incorrect,” Alexander said the NSA can only tap company data centers with a court order. The NSA, he said, does “not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers.”

Citing documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with unnamed officials,  the Washington Post reported Wednesday that the NSA “has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world.” The latest report comes on top of months of incendiary revelations about the NSA’s vast surveillance activities both in the United States and abroad, which have led to calls for reform and greater oversight, including from some of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

“This is not the NSA breaking into any databases. It would be illegal for us to do that,” Alexander said. “And so I don’t know what the report is, but I can tell you factually we do not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers. We go through a court order. We issue that court order to them through the FBI. And it’s not millions. It’s thousands of those that are done, and it’s almost all against terrorism and other things like that. It has nothing to do with U.S. persons.”

7 comments
jnffarrell
jnffarrell

Playing semantic games are we. Taking the lead from someone in the past, "I did not have sex with that woman" one could say that photons in fibers were not electrons in wires; hence there was no wire tapping. If NSA has solved the challenge of reading photons in cable without detectable signatures they win the Nobel Physics prize if they are still alive in 50yrs when their research is unclassified.

RamezNaam
RamezNaam

You're ignoring Alexander's tricky language.  He said the NSA has never accessed Google and Yahoo's 'servers' or their 'databases'.  That is not at all what they're being accused of.  They're being accused of accessing data via tapping into the fiber lines running between data centers.

Alexander did not, in fact, deny the story.  He uttered words which sounded like a denial.  Nor, in any case, should a story featuring a Keith Alexander denial be run without noting his frequent history of frankly lying on this subject.

Jaerik
Jaerik

No, he didn't.  This is why technical illiteracy is such a problem.  It allows them to dodge this stuff way too easily.

No one is accusing the NSA of having access to their "servers" or their "databases."  They are claiming the NSA has tapped the internal, supposedly secure connections BETWEEN their servers and databases.  It's the finessed difference between saying you don't tap people's phones -- you tap their phone LINES.

This isn't what Alexander denied, and it has nothing to do with the PRISM program that requires court orders to get info directly from servers.  But nobody in Congress (nor Alexander) likely understands the difference anyway so they just talk past each other.

OregonPrivacy
OregonPrivacy

Absolutely correct. Time magazines reputation for responsible journalism takes a hit from this misinformed and misleading story