One of the highest-level whistleblowers to emerge from the National Security Agency, William Binney, sat down with Benswann.com’s Eric Delisle at the 2014 Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium in Amsterdam.
Binney joined the US Army in 1965, and spent four years in the Army Security Agency, which was affiliated with the NSA through the Combined Security Service.
In 1970, Binney officially joined the NSA, where he stayed until 2001. He worked his way up being the “Technical Director of the World,” which he said lasted until, “I didn’t do the right thing and they didn’t like me anymore, then they put me in a corner and I was the Technical Skill Field Leader.”
Looking back on his time in the NSA, Binney tells Benswann.com that he recalls it with fond memories, and that is was a terrific mental test. “It was a great place to work for me,” said Binney. “They gave you puzzles everyday.”
Regarding the people he worked with in the NSA, Binney says, “I think the vast majority of people trying to do the job were really good, hard-working, honest, patriotic people. They were really trying to do the right thing.”
Binney refers to the Agency’s higher-level and management grades as the “cloning process,” due to that fact that they “start to be cloned into the corporate thinking process that basically starts to destroy creativity.”
The events that unfolded on September 11, 2001, were a turning point for both Binney, and several of his NSA coworkers.
“Initially, after the 9/11 attack, everybody wanted to do something to help,” Binney recalled. He said they all wanted to “resolve the issues, to get back at those who perpetrated the attack.”
Following 9/11, Binney says that the US government began to use all of the special intelligence developed by the NSA, for domestic purposes, rather than the foreign purposes for which it had been created. “They turned all of the capabilities we had developed to do with foreign intelligence back on the US,” said Binney.
“The excuse they used was ‘We have the Power,’” said Binney, who went on to say that the government used Article II, the War Powers Act, even though war had never been declared. “It was a false claim, but they used it anyway,” he said.
Binney made the choice to leave the NSA in October of 2001. Although the process of leaving took two and a half weeks, Binney had come to the point where all he could think was, “I have to get out of here.”
When asked about what kind of reaction his superiors had to the news of his departure, Binney tells Benswann.com, “They were glad to get rid of me, because I was too much of a straight shooter.”
It was in October 2001, that the NSA began gathering metadata, then their collection expanded in early 2002, when they “started developing the equipment to collect the content on the telephone and email activity of US citizens.”
Binney pointed out that the secret data collection practiced by the government was “violating the first, fourth, and fifth amendments to the Constitution,” along with other laws such as the Pen Register Law, the Electronic Privacy Act, and all of the regulations governing the Federal Communications Commission.
“All of those laws and the Constitution were being violated, and it was being done in secret by our Government,” said Binney.
Binney discussed the fact that the NSA “tried to limit the knowledge of this to the point where no one would cause them any trouble,” and they worked to confine “the knowledge of their illegal activity to a set of people that they thought they could control.”
While Binney maintained “the FBI was in it from the beginning,” he said that information was then transferred to “the Drug Enforcement Administration, and then to a group called the Special Operations Division.”
Binney explained that the Special Operations Division, or SOD, was specifically put together to “look at NSA-collected data for criminal activity.” Member of the SOD included the FBI, NSA, DEA and the IRS.
“The IRS then had access to the networking diagrams and relationship building that was being done by NSA, on everybody in the United States,” said Binney.
However, instead of just staying within the few select US government agencies, the data began to be dispersed worldwide to “other law enforcement agencies around the world.”
“The rules for the SOD use of the data is they aren’t allowed to talk about it or document it in any court proceeding or let any prosecuting or defending attorney know, or let any judge know the source of the information that they used to originally arrest the person,” said Binney.
In order to use the data legally, the agencies had to use a method called “parallel construction.”
“In parallel construction, they go through using normal policing techniques,” said Binney. He explained that once the police have requested information and conducted interviews, they are able to substitute their collected data for the NSA data, and can use it as the basis for arresting people.
“I call that a Planned Program Perjury Policy, run by the Justice of the United States.”
Binney also pointed out that the NSA isn’t just using this process in the United States, they are using it to “tip off other Police Agencies around the world,” due to the fact that “any police agency affiliated with the FBI or the DEA can receive information through that source,” and they are able to use parallel construction to take the data they received from the NSA, and to use it as the basis for finding their own raw data.
This bulk acquisition of data comes with a great deal of power, and Binney maintained that the “capacity of the central government to have all of this knowledge gives them power over everybody, that they can use of misuse.”
“If you stop and think about it, once you collect all of this data in the world on everybody, you have a database of information you can use to blackmail anybody in the world,” said Binney.
Binney tells Benswann.com that the US government’s actions are “subverting the entire Constitution, and the Democratic process in the country, and around the world.”
When asked about the largest dangers the government’s actions pose to the people of the United States, Binney said that he believes the “political subversion,” which uses information “against political organizations and people trying to get politically active,” is shutting down the “political controversy of different positions and being able to express them freely.”
Binney is also concerned about the fact that government appears to be attempting to shut down the free press. “The whole government is threatening reporters, and anybody that talks to reporters,” said Binney, who went on to say that, “investigative reporters are no longer getting sources to talk to them on background.”
One of the main reasons why Binney chose to leave the NSA was due to the fact that he saw the threat it posed domestically.
“I took an oath to protect and defend the constitution,” said Binney. “So did every member of Congress, the White House, the State Department, the NSA, everybody. Everyone took that oath, and it says to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. These are domestic threats.”
“We’ve done to ourselves what the terrorists wanted to, but could never achieve.”
Watch the full interview below: