Jun 15

Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower, in a still from the Robert Greenwald documentary War on Whistleblowers. Photograph: guardian.co.uk

Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution (Guardian, June 12, 2013, by Thomas Drake):

What Edward Snowden has done is an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience.

Like me, he became discomforted by what he was exposed to and what he saw: the industrial-scale systematic surveillance that is scooping up vast amounts of information not only around the world but in the United States, in direct violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution.

The NSA programs that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA’s lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:

“The White House has approved the program; it’s all legal. NSA is the executive agent.”

It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. “You don’t understand,” I was told. “We just need the data.”

In the first week of October 2001, President Bush had signed an extraordinary order authorizing blanket dragnet electronic surveillance: Stellar Wind was a highly secret program that, without warrant or any approval from the Fisa court, gave the NSA access to all phone records from the major telephone companies, including US-to-US calls. It correlates precisely with the Verizon order revealed by Snowden; and based on what we know, you have to assume that there are standing orders for the other major telephone companies. Continue reading »

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Sep 09

Related info:

The Program: A 32-Year NSA Veteran Speaks Out On Top Secret Domestic Spying Program ‘Stellar Wind’ (Video)

National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney On Growing Orwellian State Surveillance (Video)

NSA headquarters, Ft. Meade, MD.

Leave Your Cellphone at Home (n+1):

Interview with Jacob Appelbaum

From OCCUPY Gazette 4, out May 1.

Earlier this year in Wired, writer and intelligence expert James Bamford described the National Security Agency’s plans for the Utah Data Center. A nondescript name, but it has another: the First Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative Data Center. The $2 billion facility, scheduled to open in September 2013, will be used to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store the agency’s intercepted communications—everything from emails, cell phone calls, Google searches, and Tweets, to retail transactions. How will all this data be stored? Imagine, if you can, 100,000 square-feet filled with row upon row of servers, stacked neatly on racks. Bamford projects that its processing-capacity may aspire to yottabytes, or 1024 bytes, and for which no neologism of higher magnitude has yet been coined.

To store the data, the NSA must first collect it, and here Bamford relies on a man named William Binney, a former NSA crypto-mathematician, as his main source. For the first time, since leaving the NSA in 2001, Binney went on the record to discuss Stellar Wind, which we all know by now as the warrantless wiretapping program, first approved by George Bush after the 2001 attacks on the twin towers. The program allowed the NSA to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in charge of authorizing eavesdropping on domestic targets, permitting the wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and emails. In his thirty years at the NSA, Binney helped to engineer its automated system of networked data collection which, until 2001, was exclusively directed at foreign targets. Binney left when the organization started to use this same technology to spy on American citizens. He tells of secret electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities, controlled by the NSA, and powered by complex software programs examining Internet traffic as it passes through fiber-optic cables. (At a local event last week, Binney circulated a list of possible interception points, including 811 10th Avenue, between 53rd & 54th St., which houses the largest New York exchange of AT&T Long Lines.) He tells of software, created by a company called Narus, that parses US data sources: any communication arousing suspicion is automatically copied and sent to the NSA. Once a name enters the Narus database, all phone calls, emails and other communications are automatically routed to the NSA’s recorders.

Continue reading »

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Aug 28

Watch the video HERE.

The Program (New York Times, Aug 22, 2012):

It took me a few days to work up the nerve to phone William Binney. As someone already a “target” of the United States government, I found it difficult not to worry about the chain of unintended consequences I might unleash by calling Mr. Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower. He picked up. I nervously explained I was a documentary filmmaker and wanted to speak to him. To my surprise he replied: “I’m tired of my government harassing me and violating the Constitution. Yes, I’ll talk to you.”

Two weeks later, driving past the headquarters of the N.S.A. in Maryland, outside Washington, Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004.

“The decision must have been made in September 2001,” Mr. Binney told me and the cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “That’s when the equipment started coming in.” In this Op-Doc, Mr. Binney explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on this country. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. He is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying. Continue reading »

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