"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.
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