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 167.

    Perhaps Obama might listen now that one of its taxpayers is affected.

    For a start, how about jailing some of the criminals who carried out the spying and making Snowden a national hero?

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.


    There is one FACT that UTTERLY OVERWHELMS the claims made by the NSA, GCHQ, Slasher Cameron & his dog of a Tory led coalition...

    ...they keep telling us how this data stealing has helped them foil all these terror plots...

    ...yet despite numerous requests to PROVE their claims with EVIDENCE absolutely NOTHING has been forthcoming...

    ...action speak louder than words...


  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    @ 130. Damocles

    "Do you think that the U.S.A. is the only country out there doing this type of spying? China..."

    So what? Who names himself protector of the free world?

    Fiddling the law and human rights, mass scale spying on everyone, friend or foe, secret courts, secret prison camps, prisoners without law suit, torture - no, not back in the cold war USSR or Nazi Germany, but today US reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    bit of a foolish conjectrure.
    don't assume the NSA are looking for rubbish: there're private emails too.
    e.g. large companies use google mail, and google servers to store data.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    You can't trust the Americans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    152 billyhano "Is it not also a crime when states do this?" Yes surely it must be? Why shouldn't Angela Merkel, Google etc prosecute the US/NSA for hacking into their private communications?

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Que Faux Pas Outrage

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    While overpopulation of this planet continues exponentially..... with tragic consequences......

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Privacy is protected under the law in both the US & EU. What you need is enforcement of this law and hefty penalties. You'll then see an improvement in the respect for privacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    If the NSA can tap undetected into data networks, they can make a fortune on the money markets by knowing about every transaction before it happens.
    I would be very surprised if they aren't funding a whole raft of secret ops funded this way.
    Without polticians holding the purse strings, they are completely out of the control of democracy. And there's very little any of us can do to stop them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    These alleged revelations suggest just how easy it is for the NSA to spy on anyone on this planet.

    Unless (or until) the USA sheds its tag of systematic paranoia they will deny everything until proof is offered by Snowden et al.

    Lets see the evidence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Google is only mad at the NSA doing it because their contract was with the CIA, not the NSA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    We need more people who bother to learn cryptography, doing cryptography for these companies! Instead of using the NSA "suggested" algorithms (SHA, AES etc) use the decent algorithms that do not have NSA built backdoors in them. That way when they or anybody does grab your ciphertext, they are unable to do anything with it given the current level of technology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Could the NSA please pass any sensitive financial information they have gained to the relevant tax authorities please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Isn't there some irony about Google getting on their high horse about the National Security Agency hacking, snooping or compiling databases of internet users? Between them, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook et al have more personal details about people all around the globe than security service do......and nobody seems in the last bit bothered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Yesterday at the Old Bailey it was revealed that 4 individuals had pleaded to a crime: Conspiracy to intercept communications.
    Is it not also a crime when states do this? Or do we just accept that the state is above the law of the people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    American citizens and corporations have some semblance of protection against US snoops. But how about the innocent citizens and companies of Europe?

    The international aspect is missing from this debate. When your own government snoops on you, you could kick the b.stards out. But when a foreign power does it? It's a HOSTILE act, mabye even an act of war. Our governments need to man up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    "James Clapper said knowing what foreign leaders were thinking was critical to US policymaking"
    Anyone with a grain of sense is going to consider carefully that what they think as opposed to what is said especially over a phone email twitter or whatever may well be monitored by someone other than the intended recipient.
    Govt's feel entitled to spy but when they get the same treatment its wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    ... And we're surprised, why?

    Google is an US company, of course the NSA will have collected data extensively. Do I trust it? No.

    The USA is not a major world player &these are the actions of a desperate govt. Doesn't make it anymore right to do so, & should be stopped.

    I don't want the UK to be like the USA, paranoid, afraid, uncaring. The UK govt should stop enabling this too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Cant see this ending well for any of us in the long term. Either we'll all be held to ransom through data gained on us or a war will kick off because of the lengths these countries are going to in the name of security. You can be sure none of the politicians here and abroad will pay the price though.


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