NSA is ‘bamboozling’ lawmakers to gain access to Americans’ private records — agency veteran

Published time: June 12, 2013 04:27

Bill Binney (Still from RTAmerica video)

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American citizens hoping to change the way the NSA monitors their everyday activities have little hope of recourse, longtime agency veteran Bill Binney told RT. He said the way the Patriot Act is interpreted is the a big first step toward totalitarianism.

RT: I’m sitting here with Mr. William Binney — he’s a
thirty-two year veteran of the NSA who helped design a top-secret
program that he says broadly changed Americans’ personal data.
And he actually helped crack those codes, and enter into this.
He’s now a whistleblower. Mr. Binney, thank you so much for
joining me. So first of all, let’s talk about the latest
information that has come out from this NSA spying on

Bill Binney: Well, first of all, the FISA warrant that was
issued to the FBI to get the data from Verizon…that’s been going
on, according to the paper anyway, since 2007. And this is like
being renewed every three months. So if you look at the top-right
corner of that order, it’s 13-80 — that means it’s the
80thorder since this year of 2013. So when you start
to say, so what are the other 79 orders? You can figure other
companies. And this is like the second order of 2013, for each
company. So that maximum — you would divide 80 by two, and the
maximum number of companies that could be involved in this order
would be 40. But I’m sure that there are other things, that they
have other orders they are issuing than just this kind, for the
service providers, or the telecoms.

RT: So let’s talk about the nine Internet companies
that said that they are part of this PRISM program. Should
Americans really be surprised at this

BB: Well I’m not, that’s for sure. But I would point out
that the NSA had deployed Naris devices in its court documents
submitted by Mark Klein, documenting the NSA room in the San
Francisco At&T building where they had Naris devices in a
splitter that basically duplicated the fiber-optic lines and
would send them down two paths. All the information went down two
directions: one of them went down the Naris devices in the NSA
room. And so those Naris devices could take everything off of
that fiber-optic line. One Naris Insight device could do 10 GB
per second,which meant it could reassemble a million and a
quarter 1000-character e-mails per second. And that’s the kind of
input they could get from one device. Now I’m sure they have
multiple devices at multiple sights in the country as well as
other places in the world, so that’s an awful lot of data to try
to manage. So they need to do things like build Bluffdale to plan
for the future so they have lots of storage for all this data.

RT: So how far down the rabbit-hole are we? Are
we really just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of their spying
with this PRISM program coming out in the Verizon records

BB: Tim Clemente, who is an ex-FBI agent, came on CNN a
week or two ago, and he said that any digital data wasn’t safe,
and that the intelligence community and the FBI had ways of
getting back to it. And he was specifically talking about the
phone call between one of the [Tsarnaev] brothers and his wife.
And if his wife didn’t tell the FBI what they talked about in
that phone call, that they had ways of getting back to that and
transcribing and getting the information. So that’s telling you
what they’ve got recorded — then they extend it and have digital
data. That means all kinds of email, all kinds of Twitter kind-of
things, anything going across the fiber-optic lines, as well as
the public switch telephone network.

RT: So we’re not talking billions of pieces of
information here, we’re talking trillions

BB: We’re talking trillions, yea. My estimate with phone
calls and emails jointly would be on the order of 20 trillion for
the last 12 years.

RT: How can we even manage such a thing? They’re
saying, with this PRISM program for instance, we have one
lawmaker after another supporting it, saying it helps thwart at
least one terrorism attack. How would trillions of emails and
trillions of bits of data help find one terrorist attack

BB: My personal view is that the intelligence community is
bamboozling Congress and the administration. They are telling
them that they have to do this in order to find the bad guys in
the networks, and that’s just absolutely false. You don’t have to
do that. There are ways and means to do that, and I left that
ability and capability with them, and they just threw it away. So
instead they just opted to collect everything they could about
everybody in this country, and one of the reasons that they would
want to do that — the only one I could think of is they wanted to
be able to leverage anybody in this country. For example, we can
take the case of the IRS and the tea party, and the harassing
they’re doing there. One of the people that’s being harassed was
giving testimony in front of Congress. And they said, which I
thought was quite revealing, was that they had a question from
the IRS that asked, “what Is your relationship with this other
person?” And they gave the name. Well how would they know that
unless they knew the communications community of that person? So
that means you’re getting back to this program where they’re
pulling all the records of phone calls and emails and everything
together and seeing who that person worked with. And on top of
that it gave them the ability to pull together the entire tea
party. So you would know everybody that’s involved in the tea
party, peripherally or centrally.

RT: Now this new PRISM program says that the agents who
are employing need to have a 51 percent confidence that it’s a
foreign agent, a foreign person. Can you talk about that
accuracy, how can we guarantee it, and is 51 percent even

BB: Well that’s another joke [laughs]. These are
all jokes. They expect people to believe this. There are two
parts: one is the public switch, the PSTN — public switch
telephone network, and the other is the Internet, or the World
Wide Web. On the one side you have phone numbers. Now these phone
numbers, whether they’re your landline phone or your mobile phone
or your satellite phone, [they] all connect into this public
switch telephone network, and those numbers are unique in the
world. And you’re talking about switches that are routing these
communications from one point in the other to another. And they
have to know exactly where to send it. And so you know exactly
where it went and exactly where it’s coming from. So there’s no
question that we shouldn’t have fairly 99.9999 percent accuracy
on identifying that — unless something happens and they have
electronic blip and they lose part of the information.

And the other thing is, on the World Wide Web — here again they
have attributes that are part of the world wide system that
identifies those people that are uniquely in the world, like the
IPV4, the IPV6. You know, addresses that are assigned by the IANA
in the five regions of the world. And that clearly tells you, if
you don’t have that, then every device — whether it’s a switch, a
server or a computer — had a MAC number. That’s a machine access
code that identifies you uniquely in the world. And the same
would be true in using username and service provider
combinations, like williambinney@comcast.net,
something like that. Those kind of attributes identify where you
are and where you’re coming from.

RT: So let’s talk about the companies, the nine
Internet companies that are involved in this. They say that they
didn’t know that this was possibly happening under their watch.
First of all, is it even possible that they didn’t know

BB: Certainly it’s possible that some of the people in
these companies didn’t know, but I find it hard to believe that
that wasn’t already agreed to, that somewhere in the company the
COO or the CEOs knew and agreed to this kind of access. Because
it’s hard to believe that they could not notice that they’re
being drained of information 0 that’s pretty difficult.

RT: And you have, on the other hand, lawmakers on
Capitol Hill. We went out as a group with RT and we interviewed
people on the streets. And one after the other, a person said
that they are not only OK with this type of surveillance — but
that they actually encourage it if it thwarts terrorism. So talk
about this debate, this debate between civil liberties and
national security — should it be either or, in this case

BB: No, you can have both. The point is that you can
filter out all the domestic communication that isn’t connected in
any way with any terrorist — or even close to a terrorist, like
two degrees of separation in the communications network or
communities you’re building. You can reduce it to that, and if
you’re not in that zone, then all your data is thrown away, and
that would eliminate 99.99 percent of the US population and the
world. But they don’t do that. So that’s where they’re getting
back to the idea and bamboozling Congress and the administration
to suggest they need to collect it all to figure it out. That’s
simply false.

RT: So what can we really do to protect ourselves, is
there anything we can do to protect ourselves here

BB: Not really, there’s not really anything you can do,
except to fire everybody in Congress and the administration and
elect new people that will do a constitutionally acceptable job.

RT: And speaking of Congress, how much do they know,
how could they be OK with it
? How did so much of this just
start coming out with the Verizon leaks? With this PRISM? How are
we just finding out about this in an administration that touts

BB: Well, it’s because it’s not transparent. They have
secret interpretations of laws and they’re doing this in secret
and not telling anybody. I mean Sens. Wyden and Udall had been
complaining about this for several years now. So they were on the
intelligence committee. Committees had an idea of what was going
on, but the rest of Congress didn’t have the foggiest idea. And
for example, they’re using section 215 of the Patriot Act to say
it’s ok for them to get that — that had to do with the commercial
held data. Like if I send an email, my service provider would be
holding it — so that’s a third party and they say that’s a
commercial third party. [They say] all that data is legitimate
for them to collect, when in fact it isn’t — even under the
Patriot Act. ‘Cause the Patriot Act was designed, according to
Rep. Frank Sensenbrenner, who wrote the Patriot Act — he was
saying today that it was intended to resolve issues with foreign
intelligence of threats from terrorists. Well, domestic
communications is not foreign, and there’s no threat there —
there’s no relationship of threat, there’s no probable cause or
any indication that any of the data they’re collecting about the
vast majority of US citizens is in any way related to terrorism.

RT: That was going to be my next question. What does
the Patriot Act mean to American freedoms

BB: It means we don’t have any. It’s setting up a
totalitarian state. When the government has that much
information, they can use the IRS to intimidate people or
anything else. They can send the FBI at people, like they did to
me and some others. So that’s the power that the government has —
they have the power of the gun and the force and if they have the
knowledge about you then they can start to use that against you —
especially if you don’t agree with the policies that they’re
setting up.

RT: So lets go back to the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act — FISA, as a lot of us know it. The first word
of that act is “foreign”, and that was built back in the 70’s and
it applied to foreign enemies then. But in the 30, 40 years
since, we’ve seen it apply to Americans more times than not. Will
we see the same thing happen with PRISM

BB: Yes, absolutely, that’s what’s going on, that’s what’s
been going on for seven years with the PRISM program. But even
before that, back to 2003, the Naris devices were collecting that
data. Now what that meant was they didn’t have enough Naris
devices to collect everything, so they had missing bits of it —
like they might get 80 percent of the emails sent, but not all of
them. In order to get them all, they have to go to the service
provider, which stores them all for a certain amount of time, and
then have a warrant to request to get them. So that will fill in
the gaps that they are missing — that’s why they’re doing it. I
would point out the warrant, which says the request is being made
by the FBI. But the order says send the data to the NSA. So that
tells you the relationship between the FBI and the NSA: the NSA
has the algorithms to process it and package it and make it look
pretty and reduce the problem to the point where FBI agents can
look into it easily and analyze and manage data faster and be
more complete at what they look at. So, that shows you the level
of cooperation between the FBI and the NSA.

RT: Now, when you were working for the NSA, you had
hoped to create a program that’s similar to PRISM for our foreign
enemies. Did you know about PRISM then

BB: No. I left the NSA in 2001 at the end of October, and
the PRISM program, according to the paper anyway, started in
2007. So I didn’t know about that, but that data was very simply
filtered out using techniques that… if this was a US citizen,
you’d throw that data away. If this was a foreigner that wasn’t
within two zones, or two degrees of separation, in close
proximity to a bad guy doing bad things, we wouldn’t even look at
them. We’d throw it all away. And that meant we’d have reduced
the problem of all the massive amounts of data to a manageable
amount. So we wouldn’t need to build Bluffdale or any other large
storage sights — we could easily manage the storage as well. And
if you collect all of that, that means wherever you collected it,
then you have to transport it from there to your storage. We
eliminated that communications cost [with the algorithm].

RT: So is it as simple as just getting rid of that
algorithm that helped them draw it out and sort through it

BB: That algorithm would of course be able to eliminate
that data, yeah, if they adopt it.

RT: Finally, just working for the NSA in the past — do
you regret that, or does it give you the knowledge of what the
NSA has done so that you can do it and report to people in the

BB: I didn’t regret anything I was doing because there
were real issues, real threats and real potential threats that we
had to try to discover to see if we could diplomatically avoid
them. That was a very positive effort against the real potential
threats. It had nothing to do with collecting data or information
about innocent people across the world. I didn’t regret doing any
of that. The problem was they turned that against everybody, and
that’s where I have a problem.

RT: Bill Binney is a 32-year veteran of the NSA-turned
whistleblower. Thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate
your time

This article originally appeared on: RT