Edward Snowden, v 1.0: NSA Whistleblower William Binney Tells All

|

"Where I see it going is toward a totalitarian state," says William Binney. "You've got the NSA doing all this collecting of material on all of its citizens - that's what the SS, the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and the NKVD did."

Binney is talking about the collection of various forms of personal data on American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA), where he worked for 30 years before quitting in 2001 from his high-placed post as technical leader for intelligence. A registered Republican for most of his life, Binney volunteered for military service during the Vietnam War, which led to his being hired by the NSA in the early '70s.

In 2002 - long before the revelations of Edward Snowden rocked the world - Binney and several former colleagues went to Congress and the Department of Defense, asking that the NSA be investigated. Not only was the super-secretive agency wasting taxpayer dollars on ineffective programs, they argued, it was broadly violating constitutional guarantees to privacy and due process.

The government didn't just turn a blind eye to the agency's activities; it later accused the whistleblowers of leaking state secrets. A federal investigation of Binney - including an FBI search and seizure of his home and office computers that destroyed his consulting business - exonerated him on all charges.

"We are a clear example that [going through] the proper channels doesn't work," says Binney, who approves of Edward Snowden's strategy of going straight to the media. At the same time, Binney criticizes Snowden's leaking of documents not directly related to the NSA's surveillance of American citizens and violation of constitutional rights. Binney believes that the NSA is vital to national security but has been become unmoored due to technological advances that vastly extend its capabilities and leadership that has no use for limits on government power. "They took that program designed [to prevent terrorist attacks] and used it to spy on American citizens and everyone else in the world," flatly declares Binney (33:30).

Binney sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie to discuss "Trailblazer", a data-collection program which was used on American citizens (1:00), why he thinks the NSA had the capability to stop the 9/11 attacks (7:00), his experience being raided by the FBI in 2007 (12:50), and why former President Gerald Ford, usually regarded as a hapless time-server, is one of his personal villians (41:25).

Approx. 50 minutes.

Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Todd Krainin and Winkler. 

Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to get automatic notifications when new material go live.

NEXT: The Dumbest New Ban in 2014: Incandescent Light Bulbs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Where is peter King? Shouldn't he be on teevee, waving a piece of paper and shouting, "I have here a list of names! Traitors! Infiltrators! TERROR SYMPATHIZERS!"

  2. "Where I see it going is toward a totalitarian state. You've got the NSA doing all this collecting of material on all of its citizens - that's what the S.S., the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and the MVD did."

    That coupled with the demonization of progressives' enemies in the media really is alarming.

    If authoritarianism ever comes to the United States, it'll have an American ring to it, and many of us won't realize it's happened until after it's started.

    You can see it now in the mainstream media's descriptions of alarmists. Their basic take is that until the president actually starts throwing political prisoners in jail, there's nothing to worry about.

    Serious people try to prevent these things before they happen.

    1. and the real irony - all those groups that Binney names, the ones whom we wagged our collective finger at, the ones whom we claimed to be so much better than, well, Pogo comes to mind.

    2. many of us won't realize it's happened until after it's started.

      Very true. It's already happening, and most people don't see it. And anyone who does is a kook and/or exremist.

    3. "Serious people try to prevent these things before they happen." Amen my brutha!

  3. According to the Chron this morning, Obo is going to propose changes in the data collection this weekend (?).
    The article said he was fine with spying on US citizens but wanted to cut the spying on foreign heads of state.
    That's what it said.

    1. you're shitting me. Even for BO, this is a staggering display of cognitive dissonance.

      1. wareagle, I tried to find a link in the e version, but haven't found it yet. I will post it when their screwy taxonometrics yields to dumb luck or some clever searching.

        1. OK, I lied. It says:
          "Obama is expected to back tighter restrictions on foreign leader spying and also is considering a presidential commission's recommendation to strip the NSA of its ability to store telephone records from millions of Americans."

          It doesn't say he's fine with spying on US citizens. It also doesn't say he's proposing any restrictions regarding spying on US citizens, just the storage of data.
          http://www.sfgate.com/default/.....126689.php

          1. okay, so he's not fine with spying on Americans but he seems far less bothered by it than with spying on foreign leaders. Good lord, if spy agencies aren't spying on foreign govts, what's the point of having them?

            1. if spy agencies aren't spying on foreign govts, what's the point of having them?

              To keep the serfs in line, of course.

            2. "okay, so he's not fine with spying on Americans"

              I didn't see that. What I saw was that he was willing to make some noise about storing the spied data.
              Collecting it seemed just fine.

      2. Why?

        Where are the people in the streets protesting?

        Unfortunately, no one cares and those that don't, don't seem to care enough to rise beyond slacktivism...

        1. That's why pot will become legal everywhere in the USA.

        2. I honestly think no one is protesting out of fear.

    2. I've never been to a mass demonstration in my life, but I'd find a way to go this summer if there were a big one in DC.

      Obama's never really had a million people, or so, demonstrate against him, and he may not be able to handle the aesthetics of that situation.

      If you could get a million people to demonstrate for the Fourth Amendment this summer, ahead of the upcoming midterms, it might pull the Republicans in a more libertarian direction, too.

  4. If authoritarianism ever comes to the United States, it'll have an American ring to it, and many of us won't realize it's happened until after it's started.

    Don't look now...

    Cops murder people in a variety of settings, and none are lynched? We're there.

  5. "Where I see it going is toward a totalitarian state."

    Well, that's just silly. The guy is obviously completely unaware that Americans are protected by the it-can't-happen-here gene. And, if he'd ever paid any attention in school, he would know that the U.S. has a special low-maintenance form of government ("The Grand Experiment") that makes it impervious to any kind of tyranny as long as people vote republican or democrat.

    1. the U.S. has a special low-maintenance form of government ("The Grand Experiment") that makes it impervious to any kind of tyranny as long as people vote republican or democrat.

      FTFY /proggie-derp

  6. I don't actually believe Rep. Sensenbrenner's denial. It's pretty obvious that Feingold was not happy with the secrete interpretation of 215 while he was in office. Being they are both representing Wisconsin you'd think they would've at least had a conversation about the issue years ago.
    I agree Mr. Binney that term limits and getting the money out of politics will help. Thanks again for looking out and speaking up!

  7. As I watched this I kept thinking: "and he left the NSA in 2001?" Yeesh!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.