The U.S. intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) is using a private search engine to store and share confidential information, The Intercept reported.
According to the news site, the search engine, known as ICReach, functions in a similar way as Google. It can only be accessed by no more than 20 intelligence agencies including the DEA, FBI, Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
ICReach, which was uncovered by whistleblower Edward Snowden, contains more than 800 billion pieces of information such as recorded telephone and mobile phone conversations, E-mail messages, and online chats.
After news about the ICReach broke out, various news outlets contacted the NSA for comments.
A spokesperson for the agency neither denied nor confirmed the existence of the site. Instead, the representative explained that after the events of 9/11, intelligence sharing became a powerful tool for U.S. agencies to monitor potential threats.
"By allowing other IC organizations to query legally collected foreign-intelligence repositories of appropriately minimized data, analysts can develop vital intelligence leads without requiring access to raw intelligence collected by other IC agencies," the spokesperson stated.
"The highest priority of the intelligence community is to work within the constraints of law to collect, analyze and understand information related to potential threats to our national security," NSA's representative continued.
According to a top-secret memo written in December 2007, the ICReach was developed in 2005 to serve as the largest intelligence gathering and sharing system in the United States. It is capable of storing two to five billion information details daily, State Column reported.
"The ICReach team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the U.S. intelligence community," the memo read.
"This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC's increasing need for communications metadata and NSA's ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets," the report continued.
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