William Binney (U.S. intelligence official)
Binney at the Congress on Privacy & Surveillance (2013) of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
|Born||William Edward Binney
|Education||Pennsylvania State University (B.S., 1970)|
|Employer||National Security Agency (NSA)|
|Known for||Cryptography, SIGINT analysis, whistleblower|
|Awards||Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage (2012) , Sam Adams Award (2015) |
William Edward Binney is a former highly placed intelligence official with the United States National Security Agency (NSA) turned whistleblower who resigned 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.
Binney continues to speak out during Barack Obama's presidency about the NSA's data collection policies, and continues interviews in the media regarding his experiences and his views on communication intercepts by governmental agencies of American citizens. In a legal case, Binney has testified in an affidavit that the NSA is in deliberate violation of the U.S. Constitution.
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, and served four years from 1965–1969 at 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 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. Binney's NSA career culminated as Technical Leader for intelligence in 2001. Having expertise in intelligence analysis, traffic analysis, systems analysis, knowledge management, and mathematics (including set theory, number theory, and probability), Binney has been described as one of the best analysts in the NSA's history. After retiring from the NSA he founded “Entity Mapping, LLC”, a private intelligence agency together with fellow NSA whistleblower J. Kirk Wiebe to market their analysis program to government agencies. NSA continued to retaliate against them, ultimately preventing them from getting work, or causing contracts they had secured to be terminated abruptly.
In September 2002, he, along with J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis, asked the U.S. Defense Department to investigate the NSA for allegedly wasting "millions and millions of dollars" on Trailblazer, a system intended to analyze 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" as well as noting Trailblazer's ineffectiveness and unjustified high cost compared to the far less intrusive ThinThread. 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.
After he left the NSA in 2001, Binney was one of several people investigated as part of an inquiry into the 2005 New York Times exposé on the agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program. Binney was cleared of wrongdoing after three interviews with FBI agents beginning in March 2007, but one morning in July 2007, a dozen agents armed with rifles appeared at his house, one of whom entered the bathroom and pointed his gun at Binney, still towelling off from a shower. In that raid, the FBI confiscated a desktop computer, disks, and personal and business records. 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. In 2012, Binney and his co-plaintiffs went to federal court to get the items back. Binney spent more than $7,000 on legal fees.
During interviews on Democracy Now! in April and May 2012 with elaboration in July 2012 at 2600's hacker conference HOPE and at DEF CON a couple weeks later, Binney repeated estimates that the NSA (particularly its Stellar Wind project) had intercepted 20 trillion communications "transactions" of Americans such as phone calls, emails, and other forms of data (but not including financial data). This includes most of the emails of US citizens. Binney disclosed in an affidavit for Jewel v. NSA that the agency was "purposefully violating the Constitution". Binney also notes that he found out after retiring that the NSA was pursuing collect-it-all vs. targeted surveillance even before the 9/11 attacks.
Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 the 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. Binney stated the goal was also to control people. Meanwhile, he said it is possible in principle to survey the whole population, abroad and in the US, which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution. In October 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the NSA began with its mass surveillance, he said. Therefore, he left the secret service shortly afterwards, after more than 30 years of employment. Binney mentioned that there were about 6000 analysts in the surveillance at NSA already during his tenure. According to him, everything changed after 9/11. The NSA used the attacks as a justification to start indiscriminate data collection. "This was a mistake. But they still do it", he said. The secret service was saving the data as long as possible: "They do not discard anything. If they have anything they keep it." Since then, the NSA has been saving collected data indefinitely. Binney said he deplored the NSA's development of the past few years, to collect data not only on groups who are suspicious for criminal or terrorist activities. "We have moved away from the collection of these data to the collection of data of the 7 billion people on our planet." Binney said he argued even then, to only pull relevant data from the cables. Access to the data was granted to departments of the government or the IRS.
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.
- PRISM (surveillance program)
- Thomas Andrews Drake
- Edward Snowden
- Mark Klein
- Thomas Tamm
- Russ Tice
- Perry Fellwock
- Diane Roark
- Citizenfour (2014 documentary film)
- "For Immediate Release: Callaway Awards Tuesday November 13, 2012". The Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Justice. 2012-11-13. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
- Hannah Borno (23 January 2015). "NSA whistleblower William Binney wins 2015 Sam Adams award". International Business Times. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
- 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.
- "Three NSA Whistleblowers Back EFF's Lawsuit Over Government's Massive Spying Program". Electronic Frontier Foundation. July 2, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- "Keynote Address: William Binney". Schedule – HOPE Number Nine. 2600 Enterprises. 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- "The Government Is Profiling You". MIT Center for Internet and Society. November 12, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- "Sworn Declaration of Whistleblower William Binney on NSA Domestic Surveillance Capabilities". Public Intelligence. July 16, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- Mayer, Jane (May 23, 2011). "The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?". The New Yorker.
- "NSA Whistleblowers William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe". Government Accountability Project website. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
- 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.
- "NSA Whistleblowers William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe". Government Accountability Project. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- Risen, James; Eric Lichtblau (December 16, 2005). "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts". The New York Times.
- Risen, James; Eric Lichtblau (December 21, 2005). "Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls". The New York Times.
- Bronner, Ethan; Charlie Savage; Scott Shane (May 25, 2013). "Leak Inquiries Show How Wide A Net U.S. Cast". The New York Times.
- Goodman, Amy; Juan Gonzalez (Apr 2012). "National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney". Democracy Now!. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
- "Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The National Security Agency and the Constitution". DEF CON 20 Hacking Conference: Speakers & Presentations. 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- Bamford, James (March 15, 2012). "The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)". Wired. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- "Jewel v. NSA". Electronic Frontier Foundation. 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- "Untersuchungsausschuss im Bundestag: US-Informant vergleicht NSA mit einer Diktatur". Spiegel (Spiegelonline GmbH). 3 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
- "US-Geheimdienst-Pensionäre warnen Merkel vor Fehlinformationen", Der Tagesspiegel (in German), September 4, 2014
- The State Department Says Russia Is Invading Ukraine—Should We Believe It?, The Nation, September 2, 2014
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Binney.|
- The Future of Freedom: A Feature Interview with NSA Whistleblower William Binney, February 2015
- William.Binney.HOPE.9.KEYNOTE.Part1, related to ThinThread development
- William.Binney.HOPE.9.KEYNOTE.Part2, related to ThinThread development
- "Who's Watching the N.S.A. Watchers?: Giving In to the Surveillance State", Shane Harris op-ed in The New York Times, 22 August 2012
- "The National Security Agency's Domestic Spying Program", Laura Poitras opinion piece in The New York Times, 22 August 2012
- 'The Program' – a video by Laura Poitras for The New York Times, 22 August 2012.
- William Binney at the Internet Movie Database
- O'Brien, Alexa. "Retired NSA Technical Director Explains Snowden Docs".