Snowden leaks: Google 'outraged' at alleged NSA hacking


A summary of US spying allegations brought about by Edward Snowden's leak of classified documents

Google has expressed outrage following a report that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has hacked its data links.

An executive at Google said it was not aware of the alleged activity, adding there was an "urgent need for reform".

The comments follow a Washington Post report based on leaks from Edward Snowden claiming that the NSA hacked links connecting data centres operated by Google and Yahoo.

The NSA's director said it had not had access to the companies' computers.

Gen Keith Alexander told Bloomberg TV: "We are not authorised to go into a US company's servers and take data."

But correspondents say this is not a direct denial of the latest claims.

'Extending encryption'

The revelations stem from documents leaked by ex-US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and is wanted in the US in connection with the unauthorised disclosures.

The documents say millions of records were gleaned daily from the internet giants' internal networks.

They suggest that the NSA intercepted the data at some point as it flowed through fibre-optic cables and other network equipment connecting the companies' data centres, rather than targeting the servers themselves.

How intelligence is gathered

How intelligence is gathered
  • Accessing internet company data
  • Tapping fibre optic cables
  • Eavesdropping on phones
  • Targeted spying

The data was intercepted outside the US, the documents imply.

The data the agency obtained, which ranged from "metadata' to text, audio and video, were then sifted by an NSA programme called Muscular, operated with the NSA's British counterpart, GCHQ, the documents say.

The NSA already has "front-door" access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved programme known as Prism.

Google's chief legal officer David Drummond said Google did not provide any government with access to its systems.

"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide," Drummond said in a statement.

"We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fibre networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform."

A spokesperson for Yahoo said the company had "strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centres, and we have not given access to our data centres to the NSA or to any other government agency".

An NSA spokesperson denied a suggestion in the Washington Post article that the agency gathered "vast quantities of US persons' data from this type of collection".

NSA Director Gen Keith Alexander: "We do not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers"

The latest revelations came hours after a German delegation of intelligence officials arrived in Washington for talks at the White House following claims that the US monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

Two of Mrs Merkel's most important advisers, foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen, and intelligence coordinator Guenter Heiss were sent to take part in the talks - seen as a measure of how seriously Mrs Merkel takes the matter.

Next week, the heads of Germany's spying agencies will meet their opposite numbers in Washington.

'Inappropriate and unacceptable'

The head of US intelligence has defended the monitoring of foreign leaders as a key goal of operations but the US is facing growing anger over reports it spied on its allies abroad.

It has also been reported that the NSA monitored French diplomats in Washington and at the UN, and that it conducted surveillance on millions of French and Spanish telephone calls, among other operations against US allies.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that if Spain had been a target of the NSA, this would be "inappropriate and unacceptable between partners".

James Clapper said knowing what foreign leaders were thinking was critical to US policymaking

However, Gen Alexander has said "the assertions... that NSA collected tens of millions of phone calls [in Europe] are completely false".

On Wednesday, the agency denied Italian media reports that it had targeted communications at the Vatican.

The UN said it had received assurances that its communications "are not and will not be monitored" by American intelligence agencies, but refused to clarify whether they had been in the past.

On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the intelligence panel of the House of Representatives that much of the data cited by non-US news outlets was actually collected by European intelligence services and later shared with the NSA.

He said foreign allies spied on US officials and intelligence agencies as a matter of routine.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Given that the raison d'etre of intelligence agencies includes obfuscation, misinformation and disinformation, and that agents are professionally trained liars (no insult intended; it's just a fact) I think we can safely ignore anything any one of them says in testimony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Amusing...this from the company that openly wants to know everything about everybody and to own all the books on the planet ! btw did you notice the subtle dig at Germany re exports from the USA today. Upset us and we lash out like a kid. USA is crumbling from within.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    As Google collected data and got fined for it, can we not take the NSA to court for same? I am writing a book, I now have to disconnect laptop to make sure an American does not write it first. Thieves accusing thieves if you ask me, which you did not lol. When the pen became mightier than sword. What more to follow, come on snowden, don't wait til Xmas:-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Spoiler alert.

    Big Brother is Uncle Sam Hain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Why is this a news item, especially one that garners a rare BBC Public comments facility?

    Google is just a company! Thats all! Its like reporting 'Imperial Tabacco shocked at American spying'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I don't know how Google can complain to be honest, it does make them look like hypocrites

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Crazy American spying.....!! Whatever next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Any chance of putting Edward Snowden up for a Nobel Prize?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    if usa didn't spy on people, there would be more terrorist incidents im pretty sure of that so I think they should continue, as you never know what goes on in some of these countries, keep an eye on them that's what I say

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Strange how the US (and no doubt other Governments) feel it's morally acceptable to spy and steal data from any individual they feel is fair game, yet when the tables are turned and their systems get hacked or their private information is released into the public domain, it's a very different story, with extradition demands and lengthy jail sentences. This balance of power has to be corrected now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    RE: Google hacking into Wireless.
    No they didn't "Hack" into anything, they collected data on publically available SSID's and those that were Open. People need to stop using Hacking in the wrong context or even for the completely wrong reason.
    Just because someone got your password, it doesn't mean you were hacked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    For a group of people who get Elected by a Y/N question every 4-5 years they sure do take an awful lot of 'Liberty's'. Like our clown outfit here in the UK. FPTP, 50% of people don't vote, so the clowns in charge are there by >20% of the actual voting public's consent. Google cannot complain, its little car, although useful, was 'rolled-out' in roughly the same way. Do it and ask questions later..

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    @ sir guffington

    I hope you were being sarcastic......

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Spying should be legal for the media and governments. It is a way to keep Joe Public and your average celebrity in check.

    If you've got nothing to hide, then you've automatically got no problem with spying.

    Goverenments spying especially are helping us by preventing the terrorists from attacking us by listening to their phone calls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Suggestions earlier that this is all industrial espionage to give US companies an advantage. Where does the US company Google fit into that?

    No, the NSA snooping is more sinister than just corporate.

    But of course "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear" (sorry I have to get that in before the trolls arrive)

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Like everyone else I'm outraged that the NSA is accessing google's records on users, outraged!! I mean why can't they pay for it like every other self respecting snooper that google sells your details to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Does anyone believe the NSA now when they say anything? They may be factually correct, but its like speaking to a lawyer, everything is twisted and they act as slippery as a eel. Personally I doubt they have stopped anything, and will continue to spy on everyone (including their own). Personally I would like to see the NSA disbanded, and brought to international justice, but thats not gonna happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    PRISM only offers a framework to request data on "specific" lists of individuals when it is deemed necessary for an investigation. Hacking Google's infrastructure allows them to collect everything about everyone, regardless of whether they are deemed a "suspect".

    This is a wake-up call to every company doing business in or with the US. Take security and encryption *very* seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Clapper sees no problems with NSA methods, including breaking the law. However if someone does it to them they want to extradite them. I think the US is losing the plot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    No they are not! They knew fine well it was happening. Do not listen to their lies!


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