BROOMFIELD — The National Security Agency was able to eavesdrop on the communications of Google and Yahoo! users without breaking into either company's data center by targeting the fiber-optic cables that connect their data centers, according to a New York Times report in late November.

Fingers have been pointed at Broomfield-based Level 3 Communications Inc., an Internet backbone provider whose cables are used by Google and Yahoo!.

The article, written by Nicole Perlroth and John Markoff at the Times, said those interception points could have been approved by Level 3, which owns the cable infrastructure through which the majority of America's web traffic travels.

"People knowledgeable about Google and Yahoo!'s infrastructure say they believe that government spies bypassed the big Internet companies and hit them at a weak spot – the fiber-optic cables that connect data centers around the world that are owned by companies like Verizon Communications, the BT Group, the Vodafone Group and Level 3 Communications," Perlroth and Markoff wrote.

"It is impossible to say for certain how the NSA managed to get Google and Yahoo!'s data without the companies' knowledge," the Times article continued, "But both companies, in response to concerns over those vulnerabilities, recently said they were now encrypting data that runs on the cables between their data centers."

According to venturebeat.com, Level 3 released a statement saying, "It is our policy and our practice to comply with laws in every country where we operate, and to provide government agencies access to customer data only when we are compelled to do so by the laws in the country where the data is located."

A Level 3 spokesman said the company has no further comments beyond the press statement.