SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc on Thursday said it does not provide any government agency with direct access to its servers, denying a key aspect of a Washington Post report.

The Post reported on Thursday that the U.S. National Security Agency and the FBI are "tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies" through a highly classified program known as PRISM, extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs.

"We have never heard of PRISM," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. "We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order."

Asked whether Apple joined the NSA-FBI data collection program, Apple declined to comment beyond its brief statement.

The Washington Post reported that Apple held out for more than five years after PRISM enlisted its first corporate partner, in May 2007, for "unknown reasons."

(Reporting by Poornima Gupta; Editing by Gary Hill)

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