William Binney, a whistleblower and former architect of key National Security Agency programs. (Jacob Appelbaum / CC BY-SA 2.0)

William Binney

, a 31-year NSA veteran, blew the whistle on the agency when he realized technology that he had developed to protect Americans was being used to spy on them. In a wide-ranging, 45-minute discussion (produced by Josh Scheer with support from KPFK Radio), he and Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer discussed who’s responsible for the surveillance, how authorities’ desire for blackmail power was a factor in their failure to stop the 9/11 attacks, and more.

Scheer and Binney spoke during the period of discussion that followed the publication of “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” Scheer’s book about the surveillance of Americans by both the U.S. government and corporations that deal in digital data. A Cold Warrior against the Soviet Union and totalitarian East Germany for 21 years, Binney left the NSA when he realized the U.S. government had adopted the anti-democratic practices of its former adversaries.

“They lied to these people,” Scheer said to Binney, referring to officials whose decisions corrupted and undermined the national security function of programs that Binney worked on. “They lied to these people because you had a program that had shown in three testing stations that it would work. You were able to show after the fact that you could have gotten this data on the people who did the 9/11 attack. They ignored this functioning program, right? And then they grabbed ahold of it and distorted it and turned it into something that didn’t function because it was grabbing too much data and people were drowning in it. Is that a fair assessment? They basically betrayed the security of the country by not using a program that you and your team had developed and that worked, and taking that program and distorting it so it didn’t work.”

“Is that correct?” Scheer asked.

Binney responded: “Yeah, and they did that for money. And also for power and control because when you take in all this data about individuals in the country and around the world, that gives you power over them. So you have the ability to blackmail them. Like in your book, ‘They Know Everything About You,’ well, they know a hell of a lot about you, and so that means they probably know something that you might be embarrassed (sic), and if so they can use it and leverage it against you. If they don’t know something about you but they know something about someone you care about, that’s also leverage. So they can use that kind of information to do that.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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