Quantcast
Connect with us

NSA whistleblower: Illegal data collection a ‘violation of everybody’s Constitutional rights’

Published

on

Former National Security Agency official Bill Binney says US is illegally collecting huge amounts of data on his fellow citizens

Bill Binney believes he helped create a monster.

Sitting in the innocuous surroundings of an Olive Garden in the Baltimore suburbs, the former senior National Security Agency (NSA) official even believes he owes the whole American people an apology.

Binney, a tall, professorial man in his late 60s, led the development of a secret software code he now believes is illegally collecting huge amounts of information on his fellow citizens. For the staunch Republican, who worked for 32 years at the NSA, it is a civil liberties nightmare come true.

So Binney has started speaking out as an NSA whistleblower – an act that has earned him an armed FBI raid on his home. “What’s happening is a violation of the constitutional rights of everybody in the country. That’s pretty straightforward. I could not be associated with it,” he told the Guardian.

ADVERTISEMENT

Binney, a career NSA employee who first volunteered for the army in the mid-1960s, has now become a high-profile thorn in the side of NSA chiefs when they deny the programme’s existence.

At a hacking conference this summer in Las Vegas, NSA director General Keith Alexander said the NSA “absolutely” did not keep files on Americans.

“Anyone who would tell you that we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people knows that’s not true,” the NSA chief told an audience of computer and security experts. But Binney himself was at the same conference and publicly accused Alexander of playing a “word game”.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data,” he told a convention panel there.

Binney’s outspokenness has earned him media appearances on shows across America’s political spectrum ranging from ultra-conservative Glenn Beck’s TV show to the liberal radio icon of Democracy Now.

“This is not a political issue. People on both sides are concerned,” Binney said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The story Binney tells is one of extreme over-reaction by America’s national security establishment post-9/11. He recounts developing a small software system, called ThinThread, in the late 1990s at the NSA where he was the technical director of the organisation’s 6,000-strong World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group.

ThinThread correlated data from emails, phone calls, credit card payments and Internet searches and stored and mapped it in ways that could be analysed.

Binney wanted to use ThinThread to track foreign threats but it worked too well and kept catching data on Americans too.

ADVERTISEMENT

So Binney’s team built in safeguards that encrypted that data. But, by 2000, the NSA decided to go with developing a larger scale programme called Trailblazer to be built by outside contractors (that eventually failed to make it past the design stage) and ThinThread was effectively mothballed.

Then September 11 happened. Within a few weeks, Binney says, he realised parts of ThinThread were now being used by the NSA in a massive and secret surveillance operation.

But his safeguards had been removed allowing for far more targeted surveillance of American citizens. “I knew the dangers so I built in protections. And you could still find the bad guys with the protections in it. But that wasn’t what they wanted so they took those things out,” Binney said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Binney quickly left the agency and kept his silence. But that was not the end of the story. In late 2005, the New York Times broke the story that the NSA was engaged in large-scale warrantless electronic surveillance.

The scandal eventually led to the passing of amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008 which, many critics say, simply gave legal protection to the agency’s data-mining operations.

The programme has thus effectively continued under the Obama administration, which has launched a ruthless crackdown on national security whistleblowers, especially those leaking NSA secrets.

ADVERTISEMENT

Binney gradually began to protest behind the scenes. Yet that earned him an FBI raid by armed agents as he showered at his home. “Here’s a guy coming into my shower and pointing a gun at me. I’d been co-operating with these people. Why are they doing this?” he said.

Over the past year Binney has gone fully public, detailing what he believes is a massive effort under the Obama administration to collect virtually all electronic data in the country, from Facebook posts to Google searches to emails.

It is a deeply secret programme, Binney says, that is called Stellar Wind. He points to the NSA’s creation of a giant data centre at Bluffdale in Utah as part of the system.

ADVERTISEMENT

The gigantic building is set to cost $2bn and be up and running by 2013.

It is being designed to store huge amounts of accessible web information – such as social media updates – but also information in the “deep web” behind passwords and other firewalls that keep it away from the public.

As an example of Stellar Wind’s power, Binney believes it is hoovering up virtually every email sent by every American and perhaps a good deal of the people of the rest of the world, too.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I didn’t expect it from my government. I thought we were the good guys. We wear white hats, right?” he said.

For Binney, Bluffdale is a symbol that the national security policy conducted by Obama has been little different than that of Bush.

Obama has renewed the Patriot Act, tried to broaden the powers of detention of American citizens for national security reasons, and deployed the anti-spy Espionage Act more times than all other presidents combined.

ADVERTISEMENT

“They are still continuing the same programmes – actually, Obama is doing more in some areas,” Binney said. Nor is Binney optimistic of rolling back the surveillance.

Last week the House of Representatives voted for a five-year extension to the controversial 2008 FISA amendments.

Yet Binney believes there has been too much of a sacrifice of civil liberties in order to fight terrorism. “People should feel the ability to go out there and and do anything that they want to without being looked at all the time. Monitored. Watched,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The terrorists win, OK? We’ve lost because we have destroyed our society just to combat them and there was really no reason to do that.”

Binney is also determined to keep on speaking out. “I don’t see any other recourse. Everybody needs to wake up to what we are doing here and whether we want it or not. There is a big hole at the end of this tunnel and it drops off to nowhere.” he said.

© Guardian News and Media 2012


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]wstory.com. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

White supremacists accounted for majority of terror-related arrests in last year: FBI director

Published

on

FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers on Tuesday that his agency has so far made roughly 100 terrorism-related arrests so far this fiscal year -- and the majority of them are related in some way to the white supremacist movement.

As Washington Post reporter Matt Zapotosky reports, Wray made his remarks about white supremacist terrorists while being questioned by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Despite the fact that white supremacists accounted for a majority of terror-related arrests in the first three quarters of this fiscal year, however, Wray also said that the FBI still considers jihadi-inspired terrorism to be the greater overall threat.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Florida cop runs down joy-riding black teen on bicycle — then officers shock him with a Taser

Published

on

Florida police chased down a joy-riding black teenager, struck the bicycle he was riding and then violently arrested him after he fled in terror.

Jaydon Stubbs and four friends were riding July 17 on their way to Hollywood Beach when an officer spotted the teens in an area where there had been a string of recent burglaries, reported WPLG-TV.

The officer saw the boys popping wheelies and ignoring traffic laws, so she tried to stop them for questioning -- but they split up and rode away from her.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Here’s how Boris Johnson is already shaping up to be Britain’s Trump

Published

on

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson, former British Foreign Secretary and leader of the Conservative Party, secured the votes in Parliament to become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

It is an outcome that was long considered likely — and it creates parallels with the 2016 election of President Donald Trump in the United States, as there are a great many similarities between the politics and styles of these two men, notes NPR.

First, and most obviously, both men are brusque right-wing populists who have made controlling immigration their core issue on the political stage — in Trump's case it is building the wall, while in Johnson's case it is implementing Brexit.

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

close-image
Join Me. Try Raw Story Investigates for $1. Invest in Journalism. Escape Ads.
close-image