Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Example of Moral Courage: William Binney

NSA veteran and whistleblower, William Binney

Edward Snowden was not the first whistleblower to reveal NSA spying without warrants on the American people.  That has been going on for many years, and some very brave people have tried to tell us about it. Most of them have been silenced; the US government is very hostile toward whistleblowers.

The world owes an enormous debt of gratitude to all the brave whistleblowers who have revealed the truth about the United States and its huge net of surveillance, spying on its own people, on America's own allies – spying on everyone. Spying everywhere. And all the time.

These whistleblowers are modern heroes; they put their careers and futures on the line. That's called courage; and it's called integrity. When you risk your life for a principle, not for power, profit or even hatred or vengeance. That's integrity.

William Binney is one man who did so.

A 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency, William Binney was considered one of the best mathematicians and code breakers (crypto-mathematician) in NSA history. While with the NSA, Binney helped design a top-secret program code-named Stellar Wind that he claims was used (post-9/11) to collect a vast amount of Americans' personal data. Not just Americans suspected of any wrong-doing, but a broad collection of spying.  It was spying on everyone, monitoring everyone's activities. Secretly. Much of what is known about the Bluffdale Data Center and the plans for unrestricted spying on American citizens came from William Binney.

On October 31, 2001, after 3 decades with the agency, Binney resigned from the NSA after it launched its illegal warrantless wiretapping program. His reason for leaving? "They violated the US Constitution setting it up," he says. "But they didn't care. They were going to do it, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn't stay."

Those, friend, are the words of a true patriot.

Binney describes the US security state as a "turnkey totalitarian state" ... putting all the pieces in place, taking advantage of an unresisting public reduced by fear to a state of pathetic impotence. When all the components of a totalitarian state are complete; it will be too late to resist.

In 2005, Binney became one of several people investigated as part of an inquiry into the 2005 New York Times exposé on the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping program. He was placed under constant surveillance; primarily as a way of shutting him up ... it was a tactic of intimidation of Binney and his family. The NSA was determined to shut him up; to keep the truth from reaching the American public. To keep you from finding out.

One morning in 2007, Binney was at home taking a shower when FBI agents burst in and aimed their weapons at his wife, his son and himself. Binney was actually naked, in his shower, when an FBI agent entered his bathroom and pointed a gun at his head. His computers, disks and personal records were confiscated and were never returned. Yet, Binney has never been charged with any crime. Any crime at all.

Never charged with any crime; yet pursued by American intelligence agencies for revealing the truth about what they have been doing in secret. Sounds like the Stasi in communist East Germany, doesn't it?

And that's where the courage comes in; that's where the integrity enters the story ... William Binney refused to be silence by the State's scare tactics. And, yes, he put some skin into the game. It cost him. He had no way of knowing to what extent they'd punish him. Sometimes the unknown is even more fearful that what we know. 

The frightening question is not, "What have they done?" The most frightening question is, "What are they planning to do?" Brave whistleblowers, insiders who have found out, have tried to let us know what they are planning to do. For fifteen years, hardly anyone has cared enough to listen; because they are afraid of what they might learn.

But you know what? The entire world is listening now. Finally. Isn't that the way it always works? In any contest between power and patience, bet your money on patience?

If you've got 8-1/2 minutes and would like to hear William Binney in his own words, you might want to view The Program, the documentary film by Laura Poitras, released August 23, 2012.

A couple of years ago, William Binney sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie to talk about secret NSA programs (Trailblazer and Stellar Wind) which have been used to gather information on American citizens.  That interview is available on YouTube:

Where I see it going is toward a totalitarian state. You've got the NSA doing all this collecting of material on all of its citizens – that's what the SS, the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and the NKVD did.

– William Binney, January 2014   (50m12s)

Along with John Kiriakou, William Binney won the 2012 Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage which is awarded to "national security whistleblowers who stood up for constitutional rights and American values, at great risk to their personal and professional lives." (Remember, that is the definition of moral courage