(Los Angeles Times) Operating under secret court orders, the National Security Agency has access to a large segment of U.S. and global Internet traffic, allowing the giant spy agency to intercept specific information for counter-terrorism and foreign intelligence purposes, according to current and former intelligence officials.
Most Internet data moves through fiber-optic cables in the United States, and the NSA physically intercepts much of it through equipment installed at telecommunications facilities, or from undersea cables.
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But two trends have forced the NSA to adapt in recent years. Google and other major U.S.-based Internet providers have built computer server farms and data centers abroad. In addition, an increasing amount of digital traffic, including Google's Gmail service, is encrypted to ensure privacy and to thwart cyber-theft.