(CBS) - A top-secret arm of the controversial Stellar Wind program set up in the wake of 9/11 is allowing the National Security Agency and the FBI to tap directly into the central servers of nine major Internet companies to extract audio, video, photos, emails and documents that let analysts track an individual's communication, CBS News has learned.
The program, called PRISM, was established in 2007, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story Thursday evening. CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said it doesn't deal with names but was designed as a way for the government to track suspected terrorists. It culls metadata from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple and will soon include Dropbox.
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Miller said one of the terror cases solved by using this cellphone data led investigators right to Colorado and to former Aurora resident Najibullah Zazi.
"You know the plot they're talking about Scott is the Najibullah Zazi plot to place 16 backpacks in the subways of New York City filled with explosives a few years back. That was a long dormant email account that was used by a terrorist affiliate al-Qaida overseas that suddenly they found communicating with an IP address that resolved to Denver. That set off alarms. They still didn't have the name, but they forwarded that to the FBI that did the investigation and said 'This is who this is.' They started the surveillance and they followed him right to New York City and the plot."
Zazi is currently in prison awaiting sentencing. He pled guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
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