What do They know about you? An interview with NSA analyst William Binney

William Binney worked as a National Security Agency analyst for nearly 30 years, eventually becoming the technical director of the of the world geopolitical and military analysis and reporting group. After retiring from the NSA in 2001, Binney became an increasingly vocal critic of the intelligence community, raising alarms about mission creep, wasteful projects and surveillance of law-abiding Americans. Although he still collects a pension from his old employer, the NSA has yanked his security clearance and his home was raided in 2007 as part of a leak investigation in which he was eventually cleared. Binney spoke with The Daily Caller about the latest NSA revelations from his home in Maryland.

Daily Caller: The first of the recent NSA scandals we’ve heard about was the seizure of Verizon’s phone records. How seriously should we take that?

William Binney: Look at the court order that went to Verizon [pdf]. In the upper right portion of page 1 there’s a number, 13-80. That means that’s the eightieth order from that court in 2013. Now if you assume all of the other 79 orders are going to other telecoms and providers, to do the same thing — and these things are issued every quarter — that’s the second issue to Verizon this year. So if you took that and said, OK, 80 orders and each of the companies got two, that means a minimum of at least 40 companies’ data assembled.There’s an article floating around the web now saying about 50 companies are cooperating with these orders. So that number is not unreasonable for orders for commercially held data.

Daily Caller: We’re told these are just records of calls made — times, durations, numbers called, and so forth. But what universe of information are we talking about that’s available to the NSA?

Binney: The former FBI agent, Tim Clemente, says they can get access to the content of any audio, any phone call. He says that there are no digital communications that are safe or secure. So that means that they were tapping into the databases that NSA has. For the recorded audio, and for the textual materials like emails and phone.

Daily Caller: All textual material?

Binney: Any kind of textual material is relatively easy to get. The audio is a little more difficult. Now I don’t think they’re recording all of it; there are about 3 billion phone calls made within the USA every day. And then around the world, there are something like 10 billion a day. But, while they may not record anywhere near all of that, what they do is take their target list, which is somewhere on the order of 500,000 to a million people. They look through these phone numbers and they target those and that’s what they record.

Daily Caller: There’s been some talk about the authorities having a recording of a phone call Tamerlan Tsarnaev had with his wife. That would be something before the bombing?