from the muscular dept
The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.There's even this wacky hand-drawn diagram:
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.
Either way, attacking the information flow appears to have been fairly effective for the NSA to spy on an awful lot of information, often on Americans:
According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.It also appears that the way that the NSA is claiming this is "legal" is by only breaking into the Yahoo and Google datacenters that are outside the US, where there's significantly less oversight. That is, rather than being under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act (the metadata collection of phone calls) or Section 702 of the FAA (PRISM and the tapping of the internet backbone from US telcos), this is done under Executive Order 12333 -- which some (especially Marcy Wheeler) have been claiming is where attention should really be paid. This latest report certainly suggests that the NSA is routing a lot of its snooping via this program -- which explains the "not under this program" language they often use around questions on 215 and 702 data collections.
The real question, now, is what Google and Yahoo do in response to this. They should continue (obviously) encrypting those weak points (and, really, everything), but they should also sue the US government. For all the talk (often from the NSA's Keith Alexander) about "cybersecurity" attacks on big internet companies, who knew that the biggest infiltrators were probably the NSA itself.