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US spy agency built its own secret 'Google-like' search engine

Tuesday, 26 August 2014 - 1:50pm IST | Place: America | Agency: PTI

A top US intelligence agency has built its own secret "Google-like" search engine for about two dozen government agencies to search information through more than 850 billion communications records, including phone calls, emails and internet chats, a media report has said.

Reported by 'The Intercept' – a recently launched website – from the classified documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Google type secret search engine is considered to be key to searching information from over 850 billion records that the US government collects over multiple agencies.

It was a mastermind of the recently retired National Security Agency Director Gen Keith Alexander.

Christened 'ICREACH' the search engine REACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing, said The Intercept.

Citing various classified documents under its possession, it said the search tool was designed to be the largest system for internally sharing secret surveillance records in the US, capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, including more than 30 different kinds of metadata on emails, phone calls, faxes, internet chats, and text messages, as well as location information collected from cellphones.

A US official familiar with the system is quoted as saying by The Intercept that while "it enables the sharing of certain foreign intelligence metadata," ICREACH is "not a repository (and) does not store events or records." The Director of National Intelligence acknowledged the existence of such a search engine, noting that sharing information had become "a pillar of the post-9/11 intelligence community" as part of an effort to prevent valuable intelligence from being "stove-piped in any single office or agency."

According to a 2010 memo outlining the sharing tool, more than 1,000 analysts from 23 government agencies had access to the NSA's trove of records about emails, phone calls, Web chats and cellphone location information collected without a warrant.

Documents were routinely shared with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and CIA, according to a separate slide, the website said.




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