By Joseph Menn SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – While U.S. law enforcement agencies have long tried to stamp out networks of compromised computers used by cyber criminals, the National Security Agency has been hijacking the so-called botnets as a resource for spying. The NSA has co-opted more than 140,000 computers since August 2007 for the purpose of injecting them with spying software, according to a slide leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept news website on Wednesday. In November, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey told the Senate that botnets had emerged as a global cyber security threat and that the agency had developed a comprehensive public-private approach to eliminate the most significant botnet activity and increase the practical consequences for those who use botnets for intellectual property theft or other criminal activities. According to the NSA slide published by The Intercept, one technique the intelligence agency used was called QUANTUMBOT, which finds computers belonging to botnets, and hijacks the command and control channel. The program was described as highly successful. Reuters reported in May that U.S. agencies had tapped botnets to harvest data from the machines owners or to maintain the ability to issue the infected computers new commands.