WASHINGTON (CN) - The National Security Agency secretly planted software in almost 100,000 off-shore computers that has allowed it to spy on Internet users since at least 2008, The New York Times has reported.
Leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is now living in asylum in Russia, show that the NSA is also able to spy on computers not connected to the Internet via radio waves from tiny circuit boards and USB cards surreptitiously planted in computers, the New York Times reported.
"The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack," according to the article. "In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user."
While the Times said no evidence exists that the NSA planted such spying software in the United States, it reported that the program, known as Quantum, spied on the Chinese and Russian militaries. The paper also reported that the software is used to spy on Mexican police, European Union trade groups and even American allies like India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Snowden leaked documents to the media last year about the NSA's collection of millions of Americans' telephone data.
There are two different schools of thought on the government's spying form the higher courts. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled last December that the NSA's data-collection practices constitute an "arbitrary invasion" on Americans' privacy, and ordered the spying agency to stop its dragnet program and destroy the information it had collected. He stayed his ruling pending an appeal.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union lost in its federal lawsuit against the agency in New York when U.S. District Judge William Pauley III found that the prevention of terrorist attacks justifies NSA's surveillance practices.
The federal government has maintained that its collection of the phone data is supported by all three branches of the government and buoyed by the 35 orders issued by the 15 judges sitting on the once-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
Snowden's leaks revealed that the NSA recorded 70.3 million French citizens' phone calls for a month last year. It was also revealed that the NSA was monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.
The European Commission has since called for the transatlantic adoption of data protection reform laws to protect users' personal data.
The European Parliament even passed continentwide data-protection legislation to protect Internet users' privacy, and urged the United States to do the same.
While Snowden's revelations might have "shaken" Europeans' trust of American authorities, "everyone from Internet users to authorities on both sides of the Atlantic stand to gain from cooperation, based on strong legal safeguards and trust that these safeguards will be respected," Cecilia Malmstrom, European commissioner for home affairs, said in a statement.
President Barack Obama is expected to reveal plans Friday for reforming the NSA, the White House announced.
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