In order to keep the internet humming, the biggest data companies in the world link enormous data centers together—and at the seams, the NSA has been listening. The Washington Post reports just how deeply the feds have infiltrated our online lives.
The above illustration, by way of Edward Snowden, isn't a child's sketch, but a smiley-illustrated diagram by the NSA, showing exactly where data-mining operatives target Google and Yahoo. Using an online tool named MUSCULAR, co-operated with the UK, government operatives can scoop up all the data that bounces across the world via fiber optic cables and transfers from Silicon Valley private property to the internet at large. It's like drinking directly from the hose:
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.
This is, of course, in addition to the surveillance already conducted via PRISM, which is ostensibly more focused, and executed via court order. But MUSCULAR is just a big dragnet in the ocean, monitoring every byte of our emails, searches, and uploaded images, as they travel around the world. With access to our data directly at the source, American intelligence (and foreign allies) can mix information "legally" obtained through PRISM with whatever else it needs from MUSCULAR. Meanwhile, Google and Yahoo have been in the dark:
Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing. "I hope you publish this," one of them said.