THE UNITED STATES National Security Agency (NSA) has its own homegrown search engine that it offers to similarly minded US intelligence outfits.
Website the Intercept was first to report this and attributes its news to information provided by whistleblowers. It said that the search engine is shared with a number of other US organisations and institutions.
The search tool is called ICREACH, according to the report, and has been available and in use for some years.
Documents gathered by the Intercept show the system in use in 2007, and calls the information that it offers "wholesale sharing". The news website reports that the system is capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, and makes sense of email, phone call, fax, internet and text message metadata. It can also share location information culled from mobile phones.
"The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the US Intelligence Community," (IC) the report notes.
"This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC's increasing need for communications metadata and NSA's ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets."
We asked the NSA to comment on this, and it said that intelligence sharing is an important security feature and has been for some time.
"The appropriate and prudent sharing of information is a pillar of the post-9/11 Intelligence Community (IC)," the NSA said. According to the spy agency, the US Congress and two US administrations have requested that data and information not get "stove-piped" within separate US intelligence agencies.
"By allowing other IC organisations to query legally collected foreign-intelligence repositories of appropriately minimised data, analysts can develop vital intelligence leads without requiring access to raw intelligence collected by other IC agencies. The highest priority of the Intelligence Community is to work within the constraints of law to collect, analyse and understand information related to potential threats to our national security," the NSA said. µ