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'That's never happened'

NSA director Keith Alexander denies a new report that the NSA has hacked into Google and Yahoo's data centers.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

NSA director Keith Alexander denies a new report that the NSA has hacked into Google and Yahoo's data centers.

That got awkward fast.

At a cybersecurity event on Wednesday, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander was forced to answer questions about the latest bombshell report from the Washington Post. The story, which was posted on Wednesday, alleges that the NSA hacked into the data centers of Yahoo and Google -- two of the biggest email and cloud storage providers. It cites documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. 

After being asked to confirm the story, the intelligence chief denied the report.

"Not to my knowledge, that's never happened," Alexander said at the Bloomberg Government event. "None of this shows that NSA is doing something illegal or that it has not been asked to do," Alexander later said, referring to the Snowden leaks.

According to the Post, in just a month, hundreds of thousands of millions of records had been processed by the NSA, records that included from “'metadata,' which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video." The Post reports that the program, known as "MUSCULAR," is distinct from the now-famous PRISM program because the former collects private companies' data without their approval and without mediation from the courts.

Previous denials by intelligence officials regarding NSA activities have turned out to be false. Prior to Snowden's leaks, both Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had publicly denied that the agency collected "any data at all" on American citizens.

Congress is currently considering bills that would end the NSA's bulk collection of communications data or explicitly authorize it. During his appearance at the cybersecurity event, Alexander emphasized that he believed that "these are people trying to do the right thing for the country on both sides of the aisle," but that ending bulk data collection would leave the country vulnerable to terrorism.

"If we stop doing some of this we're going to create a gap," Alexander said. "If we take away the tools, we increase the risk, and we ought to go into that with our eyes wide open."