By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Paul Jay of The Real News Network interviews Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a senior fellow at the Nation Institute, and William Binney, former technical director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group and a senior NSA cryptomathematician at the NSA.
This passage caught my eye:
BINNEY: The collective group of four whistleblowers from NSA–Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis, Tom Drake, and myself–also Diane Roark, a former House Intelligence Committee staffer, who managed the NSA account, we all chipped in and put in some advice to the president as to some of the things he should be doing, as opposed to the 46 points that were prepared for him by the other–.
JAY: And what are the highlights of what you recommended?
BINNEY: [The first main issue] was to do–one was to show or to do a focused collection of information on targets that were really important for international crime or other types of terrorism and things like that. Those kinds of focused target collection are possible, and we in fact had achieved that in a previous program that was killed, but that’s the kind of thing they need to really get rid of all of this bulk collection, because all that does is add more data that’s not relevant to anything.
JAY: And how do you parse what’s to be focused on? How would you know?
BINNEY: Actually, it’s really pretty simple. If you know a terrorist or a dope smuggler, then that’s a known bad guy. And if you look at who he communicates with, either in email or phone, that’s, like, one degree of separation from a known bad guy. Then the next degree out is the second degree, that–who that guy communicates with.
JAY: But what about a situation that took place in England, like the 7/7, when the buses blew up. As far as I can make out, those guys didn’t know anybody, and that that–you know, tracing it back from them wouldn’t have found them, because I don’t think they ever found any connection between the 7/7 guys and any kind of organized network.
BINNEY: Well, see, the other rules that you input other than just the relationships [incompr.] zones of separation is that–look for people who are visiting websites that advocate violence or jihad against the West. And if you see those kinds of [crosstalk]
JAY: And I think in this situation, you would have found that.
BINNEY: Yes. Yeah. Those are the other rules. Other things, other kinds of things, very simply put, are if you have a satellite phone that’s coming out of the middle of Afghanistan in the mountains or in the middle of the jungles in Columbia, chances are those are terrorists or drug smugglers.
JAY: It’s probably not vacationers. Yeah.
CHRIS HEDGES, SENIOR FELLOW, THE NATION INSTITUTE: Or a foreign correspondent.
BINNEY: Or a foreign correspondent.
JAY: It could be a foreign correspondent.
BINNEY: But you see, okay, the rules go like this, that if you find a foreign correspondent, then you can identify them once you target them and look at them. Then you sort them out. So you do that on a finite number. Now you’re not collecting the 7 billion people in the world; you’re only down to maybe a few hundred thousand.
JAY: Okay. You had designed–you are–what was it?–a cryptomathematician. I love that. I’m going to keep saying that. So when you were in NSA, you actually designed a program to do exactly what you’re saying, and they said no, and you quit. But they must have given you some arguments why they said no. What were their arguments against what you were doing?
BINNEY: They gave me no argument at all, except they just simply rejected the approach. It was just flat-out rejection.
I guess the argument went like this. They had almost 500 contractors working on this other program.
JAY: This–is that Trailblazer?
BINNEY: Yeah, that was Trailblazer. And they had six people, six contractors working on mine. So they said, what do I do? Make six people unhappy or 500? So it’s happiness management. And that was the way they made the decision.
JAY: But this also–does this not filter up to a more senior level with some kind of strategy about all this?
BINNEY: This was from the senior level. This was from the senior level.
JAY: But the most senior level.
BINNEY: Exactly. And it came down to an issue of this program solicited billions into the budget; this program didn’t.
That’s pretty funny. Who was the contractor? CGI Federal? I love it that we’re trashing the Fourth Amendment so a horde of Beltway Bandits can cash in on bulk data collection. Not that creating a Stasi-style surveillance state isn’t icing on the cake, of course.