William Binney (intelligence official)

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William Binney
William Binney-IMG 9040.jpg
Binney at the Congress on Privacy & Surveillance (2013) of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
William Edward Binney

September 1943 (age 75)
EducationPennsylvania State University (B.S., 1970)
EmployerNational Security Agency (NSA)
Known forCryptography, SIGINT analysis, whistleblowing
William Binney-signature.jpg

William Edward Binney[3] is a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency (NSA)[4] turned whistleblower who retired on October 31, 2001, after more than 30 years with the agency.

He was a high-profile critic of his former employers during the George W. Bush administration, and later criticized the NSA's data collection policies during the Barack Obama administration. In 2016, Binney said the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election was false, but on close examination of the documents that purported to prove a British origin of the hacking, could not prove the data was downloaded from the Democratic National Committee.[5]


Binney grew up in rural Pennsylvania and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University in 1970. He said that he volunteered for the Army during the Vietnam era in order to select work that would interest him rather than be drafted and have no input. He was found to have strong aptitudes for mathematics, analysis, and code breaking,[6] and served from 1965 to 1969 in the Army Security Agency before going to the NSA in 1970.

Binney was a Russia specialist and worked in the operations side of intelligence, starting as an analyst and ending as a Technical Director prior to becoming a geopolitical world Technical Director. In the 1990s, he co-founded a unit on automating signals intelligence with NSA research chief Dr. John Taggart.[7] Binney's NSA career culminated as Technical Leader for intelligence in 2001. He has expertise in intelligence analysis, traffic analysis, systems analysis, knowledge management, and mathematics (including set theory, number theory, and probability).[8][9]

After retiring from the NSA, he founded, together with fellow NSA whistleblower J. Kirk Wiebe, Entity Mapping, LLC, a private intelligence agency to market their analysis program to government agencies.[10]

Kirk Wiebe and William Binney "have started a company (Pretty Good Knowledge[11]) with partners in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to resurrect and do the kinds of smart things we thought we do with data back in the 1990s, because this government and the Deep State as well as the shadow government didn't want us doing that here. So we're over there doing this."[12]


Binney sitting in the offices of Democracy Now! in New York City on May 2012, prior to appearing with hosts Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, and guest Jacob Appelbaum. Photo taken by Appelbaum.

In September 2002, he, along with J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis, asked the U.S. Defense Department Inspector General (DoD IG) to investigate the NSA for allegedly wasting "millions and millions of dollars" on Trailblazer, a system intended to analyze mass collection of data carried on communications networks such as the Internet. Binney had been one of the inventors of an alternative system, ThinThread, which was shelved when Trailblazer was chosen instead. Binney has also been publicly critical of the NSA for spying on U.S. citizens, saying of its expanded surveillance after the September 11, 2001 attacks that "it's better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had"[13] as well as noting Trailblazer's ineffectiveness and unjustified high cost compared to the far less intrusive ThinThread.[14] He was furious that the NSA hadn't uncovered the 9/11 plot and stated that intercepts it had collected but not analyzed likely would have garnered timely attention with his leaner more focused system.[9]

After the NSA[edit]

After he left the NSA in 2001, Binney was one of several people investigated as part of an inquiry into a 2005 The New York Times exposé on the agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program.[citation needed] Binney was cleared of wrongdoing after three interviews with FBI agents beginning in March 2007, but in early July 2007, in an unannounced, armed, early morning raid, a dozen agents armed with rifles appeared at his house, one of whom entered the bathroom and pointed his gun at Binney, who was taking a shower. The FBI confiscated a desktop computer, disks, and personal and business records.[15] The NSA revoked his security clearance, forcing him to close a business he ran with former colleagues at a loss of a reported $300,000 in annual income. The FBI raided the homes of Wiebe and Loomis, as well as House Intelligence Committee staffer Diane Roark, the same morning. Several months later the FBI raided the home of then still active NSA executive Thomas Andrews Drake who had also contacted DoD IG, but anonymously with confidentiality assured. The Assistant Inspector General, John Crane, in charge of the Whistleblower Program, suspecting his superiors provided confidential information to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), challenged them, was eventually forced from his position, and subsequently himself became a public whistleblower. The punitive treatment of Binney, Drake, and the other whistleblowers also led Edward Snowden to go public with his revelations rather than report through the internal whistleblower program.[16] In 2012, Binney and his co-plaintiffs went to federal court to retrieve the confiscated items.[17]

Allegations on intercepts[edit]

Binney is known for making the claim that the NSA collects and stores information about every U.S. communication.[18] Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 Der Spiegel wrote, he said that the NSA wanted to have information about everything. In Binney's view this is a totalitarian approach, which had previously been seen only in dictatorships.[19] Binney stated that the goal was to control people. Meanwhile, he said that it is possible in principle to monitor the whole population, abroad and in the U.S., which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution.[19]

In August 2014 Binney was among the signatories of an open letter by the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to German chancellor Angela Merkel in which they urged the Chancellor to be suspicious of U.S. intelligence regarding the alleged invasion of Russia in Eastern Ukraine.[20][21][22] In the open letter, the group said:

[A]ccusations of a major Russian "invasion" of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the "intelligence" seems to be of the same dubious, politically "fixed" kind used 12 years ago to "justify" the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.[21]

Russian Interference in the 2016 election[edit]

Binney claims the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election is false, and that the Democratic National Committee e-mails were leaked by an insider instead.[23][24][25] He has appeared on Fox News at least ten times between September 2016 and November 2017 to promote this theory.[18][23][24] Binney said that the "intelligence community wasn’t being honest here".[23] He has also been frequently cited on Breitbart News.[18] In November 2017 it was reported that a month earlier, Binney had met with CIA Director Mike Pompeo at the behest of President Trump.[23]

Role in apparent release of the Nunes Memo[edit]

On January 23, 2018, Binney made an appearance on the Infowars news program[26] in connection with the Nunes memo, a Congressional document alleging irregularities in the application of the FISA Act, which at that time was not publicly available although its potential release was a topic of public debate.[27] During the show, host Alex Jones announced that Binney had been able to provide him with the actual memo, and the purported leaked document was shown on air.[28] However, this was in fact a public document that had been available on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence since at least May 2017.[29][30] The actual Nunes memo was released February 2, 2018.[31]

Documentary film[edit]

Binney's story is recounted in A Good American, a documentary film.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "For Immediate Release: Callaway Awards Tuesday November 13, 2012". The Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Justice. 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  2. ^ Hannah Borno (23 January 2015). "NSA whistleblower William Binney wins 2015 Sam Adams award". International Business Times. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  3. ^ Video-Interview by Thomas Drake (2011-10-26). "William Edward Binney Collection" (Video; 25 Min). Veterans History Project. American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  4. ^ "Three NSA Whistleblowers Back EFF's Lawsuit Over Government's Massive Spying Program". Electronic Frontier Foundation. July 2, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  5. ^ "Briton ran pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign that helped Trump deny Russian links". ComputerWeekly.com. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  6. ^ "Keynote Address: William Binney". Schedule – HOPE Number Nine. 2600 Enterprises. 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  7. ^ "The Government Is Profiling You". MIT Center for Internet and Society. November 12, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  8. ^ "Sworn Declaration of Whistleblower William Binney on NSA Domestic Surveillance Capabilities". Public Intelligence. July 16, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Mayer, Jane (May 23, 2011). "The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?". The New Yorker.
  10. ^ "NSA Whistleblowers William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe". Government Accountability Project website. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  11. ^ "Massive Data Analysis". prettygoodknowledge.eu website. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  12. ^ "NSA Whistleblower Bill Binney, and His Ordeal". acamedia.info. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  13. ^ Shorrock, Tim (April 15, 2013). "The Untold Story: Obama's Crackdown on Whistleblowers: The NSA Four reveal how a toxic mix of cronyism and fraud blinded the agency before 9/11". The Nation.
  14. ^ "NSA Whistleblowers William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe". Government Accountability Project. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  15. ^ "Exclusive: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  16. ^ Hertsgaard, Mark; Kasten, Felix; Rosenbach, Marcel; Stark, Holger (22 May 2016). "Blowing the Whistle: Former US Official Reveals Risks Faced by Internal Critics". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
  17. ^ Bronner, Ethan; Charlie Savage; Scott Shane (May 25, 2013). "Leak Inquiries Show How Wide A Net U.S. Cast". The New York Times.
  18. ^ a b c "Was Donald Trump behind meeting of CIA chief and conspiracy theorist?". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  19. ^ a b "Untersuchungsausschuss im Bundestag: US-Informant vergleicht NSA mit einer Diktatur". Spiegel. Spiegelonline GmbH. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  20. ^ "US-Geheimdienst-Pensionäre warnen Merkel vor Fehlinformationen" (in German). Der Tagespiegel. 2014-09-04.
  21. ^ a b "The State Department Says Russia Is Invading Ukraine—Should We Believe It?". The Nation. 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
  22. ^ "US-Geheimdienst-Pensionäre warnen Merkel vor Fehlinformationen", Der Tagesspiegel (in German), September 4, 2014
  23. ^ a b c d Campbell, Duncan; Risen, James (2017-11-07). "CIA Director Met Advocate of Disputed DNC Hack Theory — at Trump's Request". The Intercept. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  24. ^ a b "Conservative media figures are embracing a wild WikiLeaks conspiracy theory that the CIA hacked the DNC, and then framed Russia". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  25. ^ "Why Some U.S. Ex-Spies Don't Buy the Russia Story". Bloomberg.com. 2017-08-10. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  26. ^ https://www.infowars.com/exclusive-infowars-releases-secret-fisa-memo/
  27. ^ https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/04/trump-twitter-russians-release-the-memo-216935
  28. ^ https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/02/politics/fbi-nunes-memo-full/index.html
  29. ^ http://www.weeklystandard.com/fact-check-did-infowars-release-the-secret-fisa-memo/article/2011273
  30. ^ https://www.wired.com/story/release-the-memo-nunes-fisa-702/
  31. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/02/nunes-memo-trump-clears-path-for-release-of-controversial-document
  32. ^ Kenigsberg, Ben (2 February 2017). "Review: In 'A Good American,' Examining Sept. 11 and Data Collection". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 7 February 2017.

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