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NSA director responds to MUSCULAR story: 'We go through a court order'

U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, speaks during a conference at the Ronald Reagan Building, October 30,2013 in Washington, DC. General Alexander spoke about Cybersecurity at a conference hosted by Bloomberg Government.

An actual slide from an NSA presentation on "Google Cloud Exploitation." Yes, that is a smiley face.

The director of the National Security Agency is pushing back hard on a Washington Post story -- based on documents provided by Edward Snowden -- that the agency has broken into the communication links that connect Google and Yahoo data centers around the world, copying the data of hundreds of millions of users, including Americans. The program, which is operated jointly with Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, is known as MUSCULAR.

Army General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, told a cyber security conference in Washington on Wednesday that the government does not illegally break into databases, saying, "We go through a court order."

But if you don't buy Alexander's assertion, you're not the only one.

"The government is in the business of surreptitiously and professionally getting into all sorts of places it shouldn't be," says data security expert Roger Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "And one of its tactics is to always deny that it does so."

Google and Yahoo have both released statements claiming that they were unaware of the government's activities. Both companies have good reason to be outraged, Kay says. Knowing that the NSA can access your information has a serious impact on consumers.

"If you know that Google is losing your information to the government, you might not be willing to use their products -- it's just bad for them, reputationally [sic]," Kay says.

Kay says if you are concerned about the government staying out of your data, you might want to look to our neighbors to the north. "One of the interesting artifacts of this whole Snowden business is that the Canadians are capitalizing on the problems in the U.S. and providing services to Americans that they purport to be secure."

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

An actual slide from an NSA presentation on "Google Cloud Exploitation." Yes, that is a smiley face.

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