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 227.

    Who cares about the US anyway?

    The country's about to descend into a bloody & protracted civil war over gun ownership/confiscation that should keep it occupied for next 10-15yrs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    I think we should all be tagged at birth so we know where everyone is and all access to the internet should be monitored so we know what all the dweebs are up to.

    Too many people think that they can do and say anything online and it wont affect anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    People may feel that they have nothing to hide online and they're probably right. Those same people probably have nothing to hide in their day-to-day activities, but I bet they wouldn't want to live in a transparent house where everyone can see exactly how they go about their daily business 24/7.

    Personnally the whole thing makes me feel unconfortable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Kettle Pot Black

    nuff said

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    What's interesting is the European dull reactions to the revelations: "we are friends we're sad you've done this to us".. If the revelations blamed Iran for example they possibly would have called it an act of war..

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Coming from Google that's pot, kettle & black

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Whats all the gripe about, commercial companies use Google to spy on us every time you open a web page, no one is complaining about that?

    Commercial companies sell your data to anyone with cash no ones complaining about that.

    Gripers should stop being hysterical and look at the facts.

    The mark down is the arrow on the right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    50 cold

    "I dont really care if they spy on me, i have nothing to hide.
    People are so silly with their outrage"

    I bet you'd feel differently if you had lived in the former Soviet Union or its Eastern European satellite countries where your and your family's future would have been at the mercy of those state snoopers, even down to the films you watched and the people you met

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Is this company outraged because the all edged hacking has shown the off shore accounts and tax havens where it deposits the billions in taxes it evades? Talk about the boy who cried wolf shedding crocodile tears and protesteth to much!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    I googled NSA hacking and nothing came up.


  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    The only way to stop bomb this is to keep typing key words that get flagged up,such as bomb randomly throughout sentences bomb; that bomb way the NSA would have too much information bomb to track.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    And they wonder why we do not TRUST THEM !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    I do wish the beeb were as good as onion.They do seem to get to the heart of spying matters

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Nothing is safe in terms of confidential data, unless it's locked away in a fortress, and even then it needs only one individual to leak sensitive information.

    Google has placed too much reliance on its own firewalls, and I imagine any half-decent hacker could find a way into their inner heart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    The NSA have been hacking everything for ye.......
    The NSA are protecting our interests and only have the well being of the world and all it's citizens at heart. I personally love the NSA and support everything they do. I regularly send them my passwords as a courtesy. GCHQ as well....... ears...

  • Comment number 212.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    They don’t operate fairly with any of us so why should we operate fairly with them On your bike that’s exactly what you do Get used to it !! I couldn’t care less about what they think if it wasn’t for people who collected information on individuals in society We'd have chaos ,systems without democracy, law or order Make me laugh Do you want A dictator running the country another Hitler

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Rights nowadays seems to be more of a 'Buffet' of questions, rather than a 3 course meal like most ordinary citizens actually envisaged. There's only ONE real choice and that is 'Do it like the Swiss'. It's a shame about the US, their only problem is their Govt. is bought, and not paid for by Evaded Tax, by the 1% and 'Lobbyists'.The UK's not far off that either. Oxbridge Millionaires club anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    I am a huge google fan, been using and enjoying their services for years.

    However, just recently they have lost who they are turning into cynical, privacy ignoring, product pushing soulless corporate scum.

    I find it hilarious that Google are up in arms about this, doubt they will reign in their own aggressively targeted ads and shoving of their linked products down our necks though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Bring back the STASI, at least the height of their technology was the cassette recorder.

    Is America increasingly become ungovernable and a complete basket case?


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