Former National Security Agency crypto-mathematician Bill Binney was blowing the whistle on domestic spying long before Edward Snowden became a household name, and has gone on record describing the agency’s growing powers as increasingly “totalitarian.” Now the 36-year agency veteran is explaining the reason for its expansion — “power, control and money.”
“Look at the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process,” Binney said in a recent interview with DW while expanding on his testimony about NSA in Germany earlier this year.
“That’s the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that — it says exactly the same thing.”
Binney said such totalitarianism begins with governments expanding population surveillance and gathering intelligence on people and their various activities, before eventually transitioning to using that power and knowledge against them.
“That’s what’s happening — in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes,” Binney said. “That’s a direct violation of our constitution.”
Binney pointed to examples like New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting a Justice Department order to reveal a source, and former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who is serving a 30-month prison sentence for exposing torture and leaking the name of an undercover operative.
“[A]nd giving the torturers immunity? That’s what our country’s coming to,” Binney said. “That’s what we did. That’s disgraceful. The motives of totalitarian states are not exactly the same every time, but they’re very similar: power, control and money.”
Binney said that thanks to the dramatic expansion of the U.S. intelligence apparatus — both public and private — in post-9/11 America, the agency’s first priority has shifted from ensuring national security to guaranteeing its own sustainability, expansion and upward growth.
“If you have a problem, you need money to solve it. But if you solve that problem, you no longer have the justification to get money,” Binney said.
“That’s the way they view it — keep the problem going, so the money keeps flowing. Once you build up this big empire, you have to sustain it. … Look at the influence and power the intelligence community has over the government. They [the government] are giving them everything they want, they’re trying to cover up all their tracks and their crimes. Look at the influence and power they’re gaining.”
NSA’s bulk surveillance programs don’t just passively allow for domestic knowledge and influence — according to Binney, they’re the reason for it, as such programs make it even harder to surveil and prevent terrorist threats.
“They’ve had it for 13 years and they haven’t done it [caught terrorists],” Binney said. “Not in the mass domestic collection — in the targeted approach, yes. If you separate out all the targeted individuals, what did the rest contribute to anything? The answer is zero.”
“It contributes to law enforcement, not intelligence against terror. That’s the whole point. When you do the things that they do — dictionary select, like a Google query, you throw a bunch of words in and get a return. And if you do that for terrorism, you get everything in the haystack that has those words. So now you’re buried — by orders of magnitude worse than you used to be. So you don’t find them.”
As proof Binney pointed to secret interpretations of legislation and executive authority like Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, and Executive Order 12333, which say “you can collect and keep data on U.S. citizens if you’re acquiring them in the process of investigations for terrorism or international dope-smuggling.”
Such “incidental” collection lets the agency “copy everything in the pipe.”
“That means everybody and all their content,” Binney said.
“We’re focusing now on everyone on the planet — that’s a change from focusing on organizations that were attempting to do nasty things. When you focus on everybody, you’re moving down that path towards population control.”