Former NSA director claims U.S. government has been spying on Americans for over a decade, collecting e-mails, call records, and other data

Scared of Google? If what William Binney claims is true, your time will be better spent being scared of the National Security Agency.

William Binney, a mathematical genius that worked for the NSA for 32 years with part of that time being served as the technical director of National Security Agency’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, is claiming that the NSA — and by association, the United States government — has been spying on virtually every American citizen since 9/11.

According to Binney, in the 90s he and his team were developing a system — dubbed “Thin Thread” — to help the NSA collect and analyze communications between people on the Internet. This program was originally intended to collect data on foreign nationals and any data accidentally collected on Americans would be securely encrypted, only to be accessible via court order. (Side note: I’m not sure why Binney and the NSA think it is OK to collect information on foreign nationals, but I suppose that is politics — or better put, “national security” — for you.) Then 9/11 hit.

Soon after 9/11 the NSA turned Binney’s program on its head and used his team and parts of his work to spy on Americans. According to Binney, after 9/11, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act “ceased to be an operative concern” of the NSA and “the individual liberties preserved in the U.S. Constitution were no longer a consideration”. In other words, the NSA started to collect any and all data on American citizens without fear of protections granted to Americans under national law and the Consitution/Bill of Rights. This data collection has been going on for a decade and continues today.

Through a program dubbed “Stellar Wind”, Binney says the United States government collects the electronic activities (emails, phone calls, bank transactions, travel records, social media, Google searches, etc.) of individuals and builds profiles based on the data.

So that now I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time.

-William Binney

According to Binney, while NSA does not have the capability to analyze real-time Internet activities for the purpose of identifying specific individuals, it collects and stores data in a national data center (one such the $2 billion data center being built in Utah — a data center bigger than the likes of Apple and Google have built) and can perform Google Search-like queries to retrieve whatever data is needed.
Furthermore, Binney claims the NSA has setup 10-20 nodes around the U.S. through which all electronic data within the country passes through before it is allowed to pass between networks. This, according to Binney, allows the NSA to analyze and collect data on whomever it desires without ever getting a warrant. The NSA wants “to be able to monitor what people are doing” and it doesn’t care if those people are Americans or not.

The danger here is that we fall into a totalitarian state. This is something the KGB, the Stasi or the Gestapo would have loved to have had.

-William Binney

Aside from collecting data itself, the NSA/U.S. government has attained records, logs, etc. from companies. For example, Binney claims AT&T has shared 300 million call records with the government.

Binney says he left the NSA in October 2011 soon after he learned of the NSA’s plan to spy on Americans. Since leaving the NSA, Binney founded a company with the goal of helping the U.S. government in dealing with data problems but no one wanted to hire him because “certain agencies didn’t want them hiring us”. Binney also had his house raided by 10-12 FBI agents in July 2007 in relation to a complaint Binney and others filed with the Pentagon against the NSA.

We call ourselves a democracy, it doesn’t mean we will stay that way.

-William Binney

Of course there will always by conspiracies about how governments around the world, not only the American government, spy on their citizens and foreign nationals. Some theories have proven to be true, such as the President Surveillance Program. More often then not, however, such conspiracies are unfounded without proof. However, when a former NSA employee, one that has worked there for 32 years and served as a director, comes out and claims the NSA is participating in such activities… you had better listen. I’m not saying what Binney is claiming is true — I don’t know and likely never will know — but even the possibility of his claims being truthful is a scary thought. If the NSA is reading this: Hi.

[via BGR, BI, Democracy Now, NY Times | Image via EFF]

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10 comments

  1. sl0j0n

    Hello all, including our friends @ NSA.
    Many times someone will say/write;
    Why worry, if you aren’t doing anything wrong?
    The problem isn’t that “they” are trying to catch the ‘bad guys’,
    because “they” aren’t.
    The problem is that “they” will let ‘bad guys’ go, even if “they” KNOW that the ‘bad guys’ are criminals.
    “They” justify it by saying that “they” don’t want to ‘reveal’ any of “their” secrets.
    The FBI had informers working for them, on the FBI’s payroll, and the FBI KNEW that the informant had perjured himself, to get revenge on the informant’s ‘enemies’.
    The ‘enemies’ went to prison, innocent of the crimes they were convicted of, just so the FBI could keep their informant ‘safe’, for the FBI’s benefit.
    It was in the newspapers, and Reader’s Digest reported it.
    The people entrusted with the security of the ‘government’ tend to forget that that, in theory at least, the PEOPLE are the ‘government’.
    So, will we get to choose which ‘government re-education camp’ we get assigned to?

    Have a GREAT day, neighbors!