“Intelligence agencies tap into servers of top Internet companies”



By Andrea Mitchell and Jeff Black, NBC NEWS


U.S. intelligence agencies have a direct tap into the servers of the United States’ largest Internet companies where agents can troll for suspicious activity, sources confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.

The highly classified program, designed to look at international communications and run by the National Security Agency and the FBI, can peek at video, audio, photos, emails and other documents, including connection logs that let the government track people, according to the sources, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity.

Intelligence officials disputed reports that the program was engaged in “data mining,” and instead described the activities as “data collection.” It was unclear what the distinction between the two is in practical terms.

The program, code-named PRISM, was first publicly exposed Thursday evening by The Washington Post and The Guardian.

According to the Post, which reported that it had obtained an internal NSA presentation on the PRISM operation, the tool was so successful its data was the top contributor to President Barack Obama’s daily intelligency brief–with 1,477 articles last year.

The participating technology companies were a virtual “Who’s Who” of Silicon Valley, including  Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple,  the Post said.

Companies contacted by NBC denied knowledge of the PRISM operation, which the presentation described as a “partnership” with the technology industry.