William Binney, a codebreaking specialist whom the National Security Agency enlisted to help decipher electronic data to foil post-Sept. 11 terror plots, recently told CBS Baltimore his attempt several years ago to protest the agency’s abuse of its growing tech powers led only to personal heartache as the government pushed back against his vocal concern.
Binney was brought in by the NSA after the World Trade Center attacks to help develop new software that could mine enormous amounts of cell phone and email data he believed the agency was collecting legally to target potential foreign terrorists.
But as he helped build the new computer program and gained access to exactly how indiscriminate the spy agency’s surveillance methods were, he backed away.
“The idea was, ‘How can you look into terabytes of data going by every minute and see what’s important in that data that you need to pull out to look at and analyze to figure out intentions, capabilities of potential enemies in the world,’” he told CBS. “The data that was being taken in was all about United States citizens. They’re destroying our democracy is what they’re doing.”
Binney maintains that Congress, for all its outrage over the Edward Snowden revelations, has for years failed to listen to other would-be whistleblowers who tried to effect change by legal means. “The government can’t admit a mistake. They have to cover up everything,” he said.
Frustrated at the stonewalling, and unwilling to collude with the government in an endeavor he knew to be illegal and wrong, Binney resigned from his job.
For his trouble, the FBI raided him in 2007 on suspicion that he had already divulged too much.
“They pushed their way in with guns drawn and pushed my son out of the way and came upstairs and pointed guns at my wife and me. They took our computers and all the electronic equipment we had,” he said.
“I think they’re violating the foundation of this country. The thing that makes this country strong are the rights and freedoms that we have in the Constitution.”
Read the full CBS Baltimore report here.