In another revelation about the extent of U.S. government surveillance of Americans' communications, the Washington Post reports tonight that the National Security Agency and the FBI are "tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements and contacts over time."
According to the Post, the secret program, known as PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before.
The companies are "participating knowingly" in the operations, the Post reports.
Here is the Washington Post story: U.S. Intelligence Mining Data From Nine U.S. Internet Companies in Broad Secret Program
The Guardian newspaper in the U.K also has a report on the PRISM program: NSA Taps in to Internet Giants' Systems to Mine User Data, Secret Files Reveal.
It says all the companies that responded to the paper's request for comment denied they know anything about the program. Google specifically denied that it has a "back door for the government to access private user data."
Apple told CNBC, "We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order."
Facebook also told us it does not give any government organization direct access to its servers.
NBC News has confirmed from two sources that the PRISM program exists, but a government official says it is a data collection program rather than a data mining program.The reports closely follow the revelation that the U.S. is secretly collecting records of millions of Verizon telephone calls.