Bill Binney had tried to make the National Security Agency adopt a surveillance programme that respected privacy. After leaving the agency disillusioned, he became a public and vocal critic of his former employer. The math genius says the NSA has a ‘data hoarding disorder’. ‘We were subverting our democracy. I couldn’t be a part of that.’
You would think that a whistleblower who used to work for the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA), would take extra measures to protect his privacy. But William Binney wants everything to be out in the open to avoid raising suspicion.
‘If I, for example, used an encrypted phone to talk to you, you would automatically be a target. They would say I am conspiring with you and I do not want to put you in that position’, says Binney in a telephone interview.
Binney had tried to make the National Security Agency adopt a surveillance programme that respected privacy. The project, called Thin Thread, would encrypt data so that only information from people who were actually suspects would be accessible, once a warrant had been granted. But the NSA chose a competing programme.
He left the agency and became a public and vocal critic of his former employer. The math genius, protagonist of the documentary A Good American, says the NSA has a ‘data hoarding disorder’.
‘My background at the NSA was in watching Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries,’ he says in the phone interview. ‘This was out of the training book of the KGB and the Stasi. We were subverting our democracy. I couldn’t be a part of that.’
‘I tried to work with government institutions, to alert people so they knew what was going on’, says Binney. But his protests with US authorities against the NSA’s mass surveillance were fruitless, so Binney started to publicly address the issues. Binney was investigated and interviewed several times by the FBI, and in 2007 his house was raided. But because of fabricated evidence, the FBI case against Binney, and three other former colleagues, was dropped.
‘It is getting worse and worse’, the whistleblower says over the phone. For example, online video games are now being used to spy on people. ‘In the UK they are talking about requiring Internet service providers to keep a record of what sites you are visiting.’ And what to think of the upcoming Internet of Things, which connects all sorts of home appliances to the Internet – a massive spying opportunity.
But the data that is being collected, is not effectively used, says Binney. The terrorists who attacked Paris, Boston and other cities were in databases somewhere. But they weren’t detected because spy agencies ‘are looking at everyone’. Binney: ‘They are trying to get data from four billion people, instead of focussing.’
By Peter Teffer