Binney: ‘The NSA’s main motives: power and money’
Whistleblower William Binney recently made headlines when he told the German parliament that the NSA, his former employer, had become “totalitarian.” DW spoke to him about NSA overrreach and the agency’s power.
DW: In your testimony, you described the NSA as “totalitarian,” and many commentators say that Germany’s Stasi history has made the country more sensitive to NSA revelations. But others have suggested this comparison is too easy. After all, the Stasi also targeted intellectuals and general writers opposed to the East German regime.
Sure, they haven’t gone that far yet, but they tried to shut down newspaper reporters like Jim Risen [who is fighting legal action by the Department of Justice to testify against an alleged source – the eds.]. Look at the NDAA Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process. That’s the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis, [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that – it says exactly the same thing.
These were totalitarian processes that were instituted. And it’s not just us – it’s happening around the world. Totalitarianism comes in the form first of knowledge of people and what they’re doing, and then it starts to transition into using that power against people. That’s what’s happening – in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes. That’s a direct violation of our constitution.
But surely the difference is that there was an ideological regime behind the Stasi and the Nazis.
You mean like putting people like John Kiriakou in prison for exposing torture [the former CIA officer was the first to discuss waterboarding of terrorism suspects with the press. He is serving a 30-month prison term for leaking the name of an undercover agency operative to a reporter – the eds.], and giving the torturers immunity? That’s what our country’s coming to. That’s what we did. That’s disgraceful. The motives of totalitarian states are not exactly the same every time, but they’re very similar: power, control and money.
What’s changed in the NSA’s methodology since you were working there, until 2001?
We’re focusing now on everyone on the planet – that’s a change from focusing on organizations that were attempting to do nasty things. When you focus on everybody, you’re moving down that path towards population control.
But is that the intention, or just a consequence of the new methods?
Well, otherwise you don’t have secret interpretations of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, or Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, nor do you use Executive Order 12333 in a general way, which says you can collect and keep data on US citizens if you’re acquiring them in the process of investigations for terrorism or international dope-smuggling. And they’re collecting this data incidentally, but they’re allowed to keep it according to their interpretation of that executive order. Which means they copy everything in the pipe. That means everybody and all their content.
You argue that mass data collection is a very inefficient way to catch terrorists, but can’t the NSA legitimately argue that mass data collection works?
They’ve had it for 13 years and they haven’t done it [caught terrorists]. Not in the mass domestic collection – in the targeted approach, yes. If you separate out all the targeted individuals, what did the rest contribute to anything? The answer is zero. It contributes to law enforcement, not intelligence against terror. That’s the whole point. When you do the things that they do – dictionary select, like a Google query, you throw a bunch of words in and get a return. And if you do that for terrorism, you get everything in the haystack that has those words. So now you’re buried – by orders of magnitude worse than you used to be. So you don’t find them.
So why do they keep doing it?
Money. It takes a lot of money, you have to build up Bluffdale [the location of the NSA’s data storage center, in Utah] to store all the data. If you collect all the data, you’ve got to store it, you have to hire more people to analyze it, you have to hire more contractors, managers to manage the flow. You have to start a big data initiative. It’s an empire. Look at what they’ve built! Have you ever looked around all the buildings they’ve built up because of 9/11?
So that’s what it’s all about, expanding the budget for the intelligence community?
If you have a problem, you need money to solve it. But if you solve that problem, you no longer have the justification to get money. That’s the way they view it – keep the problem going, so the money keeps flowing. Once you build up this big empire, you have to sustain it. … Look at the influence and power the intelligence community has over the government. They [the government] are giving them everything they want, they’re trying to cover up all their tracks and their crimes. Look at the influence and power they’re gaining.
This was presumably the reason why you left the NSA. How long did it take you to decide to leave? You left very quickly after the new programs were introduced following 9/11.
The acquisition of data was such that it was pretty clear that I couldn’t stick around at that point, but the slow process, starting in 80s and going into the 90s, was seeing the focus more on acquiring money to get contracts to build up the empire, as opposed to actually doing the mission. I watched that evolution from an organization that was unified – all skills were unified, then in the late 60s/early 70s they separated them – operations was here, technology moved over here. That created two separate camps with two different motives. One motive was to answer the questions in real life and deal with crises – that was the operations. On the other hand, you had the technology people who wanted to play around in the lab and build things. But the focus became getting money, because you need money to get contracts to buy equipment.
As someone who was instrumental in designing the NSA’s programs, do you sometimes feel like the man who invented the atom bomb?
No, because I designed it to do a proper job. These people subverted it. They corrupted it to violate the law and the constitution. The design I did followed all that … and I was open with Congress about what I was doing. … These cowards downtown in DC are changing our constitution – they’re scrapping the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments primarily. If you want to change the constitution, there’s a process to do that. That process means putting a proposal in Congress, get Congress to pass it and then you pass it around all the states, and if 75 percent of the states ratify it, then it’s a Constitutional Amendment. That’s the process. These cowards are doing it all in secret.
William Binney had a 30-year-career at the National Security Agency, which culminated in becoming its technical director. He resigned from the agency in October 2001 and became an outspoken critic of his former employers.
NSA ‘totalitarian,’ ex-staffer tells German parliament
A former NSA technical chief has told Germany’s parliament that the US agency has become a “totalitarian” mass collector of data. German public broadcasters say the NSA targets individuals who use encryption services. (03.07.2014)
Who or what can stop the NSA?
Snowden’s latest revelations show that the National Security Agency has the capacity to store 100 percent of a given nation’s phone calls and store them for a month. Is there no other way of preventing terrorist attacks? (25.03.2014)
Private apologies are not enough for a defender of torture, the architect of America’s drone program and the most talented liar in Washington. The nation’s top spy needs to go
By Trevor Timm
This is not the type of guy who is going to resign because of some report he doesn’t like; this is the type of spy who apologizes even though he’s not sorry, who lies because he doesn’t like to tell the truth.
As reports emerged that an internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general found that the CIA “improperly” spied on US Senate staffers when researching the CIA’s dark history of torture, it was hard to conclude anything but the obvious: John Brennan blatantly lied to the American public. Again.
“The facts will come out,” Brennan told NBC News in March after Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a blistering condemnation of the CIA on the Senate floor, accusing his agency of hacking into the computers used by her intelligence committee’s staffers. “Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the committee] or the Senate,” he said.
After the CIA inspector general’s report completely contradicted Brennan’s statements, it now appears Brennan was forced to privately apologize to intelligence committee chairs in a “tense” meeting earlier this week . Other Senators on Thursday pushed for Brennan to publicly apologize and called for an independent investigation. Sen. Ron Wyden said it well:
But the director of the CIA – and the architect of America’s drone program, who will be all but defending torture for the next several weeks – should do more than that. Apologies aren’t enough: John Brennan should resign.
The latest row isn’t the lone CIA-spying-on-the-Senate scandal on Brennan’s watch. In a little noticed story last week, McClatchy reported that the CIA has also been spying on emails from whistleblower officials and Congress:
The CIA got hold of the legally protected email and other unspecified communications between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring, people familiar with the matter told McClatchy. It’s unclear how the agency obtained the material.
That spying scandal, as well as the one Brennan has actually owned up to, both spawn from the Senate’s damning 6,000-page report on CIA torture, part of which is supposed to be publicly released any day now. The document will serve as yet another reminder that Brennan, when he worked in the CIA during the Bush years, supported many of the barbaric techniques used on prisoners after 9/11, which the Obama administration claims to oppose.
Brennan’s one-time torture endorsement made a newly elected President Obama pass him over when the CIA director job was open in 2009. But failing upwards has been a Langley specialty over the past decade. As theAssociated Press has documented , many agency officials involved in the CIA’s worst human rights abuses and intelligence disasters have not only been shielded from punishment, but promoted . In 2013, after a signature drone strike-filled stint as Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, Brennan was successfully confirmed as CIA director.
Almost immediately, members of the Senate intelligence committee started accusing Brennan of dragging his feet and stalling on the CIA’s response to the torture report behind closed doors, even as he told them in public he was doing everything he could to move it right along. Just this week, the New York Times reported how Brennan’s been colluding with his close friend and former CIA director George Tenet, all the while keeping him closely apprised of the redaction process of the report’s release (which, bizarrely, the CIA has been allowed to lead ).
Lest we forget, Brennan’s most recent false statement is not his first James Clapper-esque experiment in misinformation. The nation’s top spy is, in fact, a proficient and skilled liar. As Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor for his entire first term in the White House, Brennan built, oversaw, executed and excused America’s robotic assassination program. During a speech in 2011, the keeper of the kill list said there had not been “a single collateral death” from US drone strikes because of their “exceptional proficiency [and] precision”. But as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported :
[J]ust three months beforehand, a major US drone strike had killed 42 Pakistanis, most of them civilians. As well as being widely reported by the media at the time, Islamabad’s concerns regarding those deaths were also directly conveyed to the ‘highest levels of the Administration’ by Washington’s then-ambassador to Pakistan, it has been confirmed to the Bureau.
Internal intelligence documents leaked to McClatchy later confirmed Brennan to have lied at the time, not to mention the countless media reports before and since documenting other cases of US drone strikes killing civilians. During his confirmations hearings, Brennan promised to be “as open as possible with these programs” ; we know almost nothing. What we do know, has been pried from the CIA by lawsuits and court orders.
When Brennan was approved by the Senate, many of his friends told the media he wanted to get the CIA out of the drone business and hand operations over to the Pentagon, but of course once he assumed his office, he seems to have reversed course and kept the drone program under CIA control .
Brennan also fed the public wildly inaccurate details about the Osama bin Laden raid in 2011, and despite condemning leaks of classified information from others, he has often leaks classified information himself to suit his own needs. This is not the type of guy who is going to resign because of some report he doesn’t like; this is the type of spy who apologizes even though he’s not sorry, who lies because he doesn’t like to tell the truth.
The National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have been allowed to lie brazenly to Congress , the courts and the public for far too long. It’s far past time for the Obama administration to bring a little accountability to the intelligence community. It’s time for Barack Obama to fire John Brennan.
As President Obama prepares for his address at the NATO Summit in Wales and for chairing the United Nations Security Council in September, the children of Zbignew Brzezinski, the aging anti-Russian strategist who advised President Obama during his first campaign, have been actively working to implement his Cold War schemes.
While Zbigniew has held no official role in President Obama’s administration, his son Mark, who served on President Clinton’s National Security Council as Advisor for Russia and Eurasian Affairs, has been Ambassador to Sweden since his confirmation on November, 11, 2011. From 1999 to 2001, he served as a director at the National Security Council, where he coordinated inter-agency policy formulation and advised the President and the National Security Advisor on issues relating to Russia, Eurasia, the Balkans and NATO.
Ambassador Mark Brzezinski has used his position to urge Sweden to join NATO, appearing at an Atlantic Council event in March to commend Sweden’s integration into NATO’s military forces, and pointing out to the Swedish media in April that the renewed Russian threat should justify increased defense budgets, as NATO or American support is not completely guaranteed.
Despite not being a full member, the Swedish military has participated in several coordinated NATO exercises this year. In March, fourteen hundred Swedish troops participated in Cold Response, a bi-annual drill hosted by Norway which simulates NATO responding to a hypothetical conflict between a government and separatists after a natural disaster.
In October 2013, Swedish troops participated alongside the NATO countries, Finland, and Ukraine in Operation Steadfast Jazz, to “train and test the NATO Response Force, a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Forces components that the Alliance can deploy quickly wherever needed.”
In June, 2014, Swedish troops participated in two major exercises: Flaming Sword, based in Lithuania, and the 42nd annual BALTOPS drill, where 13 nations from around the Baltic and North Sea (plus the Republic of Georgia) practiced “air, surface, subsurface, and mine warfare, where the participants conducted “advance information sharing, crucial to maintaining regional stability and maritime security in the region.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski’s other son, Ian, is currently a member of the Strategic Advisors Group of the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO lobbying organization created in 1961. From 2006 – 2011 he worked with CIA and NSA-contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and from 2001 to 2005, served as President George W. Bush’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy. From 1986 – 1987 he worked at the National Security Council, and from 1991-1993, he was on the Policy Planning staff of the Defense Department.
On August 14, 2014 Ian co-authored “NATO’s Crucial Summit” for CNN, where he openly advocated escalating the violence in the region, writing, “the alliance should be prepared to provide Ukraine lethal military assistance, including anti-tank weapons and surface to air missiles, and to deploy intelligence platforms to improve the situational awareness of Ukrainian security forces and military trainers. The alliance should also resume military exercises with Ukraine to help train its armed forces.”
The first time Ian had publicly sought to compel NATO to take a hostile stance towards Russia alongside Ukraine’s new government was in his March 24 Washington Post piece, entitled “Three ways NATO can bolster Ukraine’s security.” In addition to approving lethal weapon transfers and increasing training exercises, he suggested reminding Russians of their role in Afghanistan – perhaps forgetting the blowback from America’s decision to arm and train Islamist Mujahedeen soldiers.
Zbigniew’s last child, his daughter Mika, hosts a morning political gossip show on MSNBC with former right-wing Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough. When not speaking about her cozy relationship with administration officials, she has provided a platform for neo-conservative policy architect William Kristol to call for another war in Iraq, as she did on June 17. In May, Mika and Joe even presented the Republicans with the opportunity to fraudulently attack President Obama and Hillary Clinton over Benghazi.
Zbignew himself has been quite busy. In addition to teaching American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and Co-chairing the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Advisory Board, this year Zbigniew himself has written several columns, appeared at a conference at Princeton’s Wilson Center entitled “Confronting Russian Chauvinism” and testified in January and July to Congress about events in Ukraine, where he spoke of Putin “exalt[ing] in his military seizure of Crimea while basking in an orgy of unleashed chauvinistic sentiments.”
On May 2nd, Zbigniew wrote a piece for Politico magazine entitled “What Obama Should Tell Americans About Ukraine,” where he suggests turning Ukraine into a permanent urban battlefield, writing, “the Ukrainians will fight only if they think they will eventually get some help from the West, particularly in supplies of the kind of weaponry that will be necessary to wage a successful urban defense.”
While Obama never gave the particular speech Mr. Brzezinski wrote, he did speak on the issue on July 29 when he announced the second round of sanctions against the Russian arms, energy, and banking sectors. However, the language President Obama uses to discuss sovereignty and territorial integrity has closely mirrored Zbigniew’s suggestions.
Zbignew, who served as President Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977-1981, was raised by his anti-Russian father, Tadeusz Brzezinski (1896 – 1990), who fought the Soviet Red Army in the final Warsaw campaign of 1920 and later held public office in Nazi Germany as Consul General in the city of Liepzig from 1931-1935.
Zbigniew also married into a legendary family of anti-Russian politicians: his wife, Emilie Beneš, was the grand-daughter Czech politician Vojta Beneš (1878-1951), brother of former Czechoslovak Prime Minister Eduard Beneš (1884-1948). Beneš was Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia before WWII, in exile, and then after the war. Beneš was overthrown in 1948 after he tried to bring Czechoslovakia into America’s Marshall Plan, a project to consolidate anti-Soviet power in Europe.
The Brzezinski clan’s activity in the State Department, media, and pro-NATO lobbying organizations make it certain that their family tradition of Russophobia will play a key role in the way the American government plans and executes its aggressive policy towards Russia.
Daniel Zubov for The Center for International Journalism and Research, “Rossiya Segodnya”
from the good-luck-with-that dept
We’ve been covering the pending release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report, which is currently undergoing a fight over what should or should not be redacted. We also covered the NY Times report about how former CIA boss George Tenet (who helped mentor current CIA boss John Brennan) is both implicated by the report … and has been leading the campaign to discredit the report.
It appears that he’s not the only former CIA boss tapped to do so. Former CIA (and NSA) director Michael Hayden has kicked off what can only, charitably, be described as a smear campaign against the report and any of its supporters. The piece, published in the Washington Times, tries to paint the whole thing as being a “Democrat” plot to discredit the good and righteous CIA-supporting Republicans.
Frankly, the idea that any of this is a partisan battle is just silly. Lots of things in DC are partisan, but there’s been little indication that the CIA report is driven in any way by partisan interests. After all, the CIA’s current director, Brennan, was appointed by a Democratic President. In fact, in the past, Brennan has actually lashed out at Republicans for playing “political football” over national security issues. Of course, now that it’s happening in his favor…
Hayden goes on to push a blatant smear on Retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who recently wrote an op-ed for the NY Times asking President Obama to stop hiding the report and to release it. Of course, Hayden doesn’t actually link to Taguba’s piece. Because he doesn’t want you to actually read it. He just wants to smear Taguba, who has some experience in exposing coverups and bad behavior. He headed the military’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison. And his statement is powerful:
Even though a bipartisan majority of the committee voted to declassify the report, there is a concerted effort to discredit it by depicting it as partisan and unfair. The report’s detractors include the C.I.A. itself: The agency’s rebuttal will be released alongside the report’s key sections. While the C.I.A. is under no obligation to stay silent in the face of criticism, it seems that between its apparently excessive redactions and its spying on the committee’s computers, the agency is determined to resist oversight.
Yet I know from experience that oversight will help the C.I.A. — as it helped the United States military. Ten years ago, I was directed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior officer in Iraq, to investigate allegations of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. My report’s findings, which prompted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, documented a systemic problem: military personnel had perpetrated “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses.”
The findings, along with what became infamous images of abuse, caused a stir and led to prosecutions. The inquiry shed light on our country’s trip to the dark side, in which the United States government engaged in an assault on American ideals, broke the law and in so doing strengthened our enemies.
The heart of Hayden’s smear campaign is that Taguba couldn’t possibly know what’s actually in the report, because it’s not out yet. He admits that some details of the report have been leaked to the press, but insists that no one knows if these are accurate. Of course, he also admits that he, himself, was given a copy of the report to review (in unredacted form, even), and yet he doesn’t even attempt to counter what was said in the leaks. Hmm.
Hayden also pulls the “law and order” card, in claiming that the CIA couldn’t possibly have done wrong because the “CIA’s program was authorized by the highest levels of the U.S. government, declared lawful on four occasions by the Department of Justice, monitored by an Inspector General, and briefed to the leadership of Congress.” Except… that’s not quite what the leaks from the report have said. It talks about how the CIA regularly misled Congress about the program, including what techniques they were using and how effective the torture program was. Besides, the whole “it’s okay because someone said it was legal” excuse is extremely weak.
Hayden also tries to smear two other military generals who have expressed similar concerns. Former Marine Corps Commandant General Charles Krulak and former Central Command Chief General Joseph Hoar wrote a similar article for the Chicago Tribune (again, Hayden fails to link to it). Like Taguba’s, it’s powerful.
Mr. President, the stakes are too high to allow the intelligence community to circle the wagons and obscure the truth about torture: that it is both wrong and wrong-headed, an immoral and illegal act that makes the country less safe. People familiar with the report, as well as news reports, say that the committee has concluded that torture was more brutal and common than Americans were led to believe and that it failed as an intelligence-producing tactic. The committee also reportedly found that the CIA misled the administration and Congress about the nature and extent of the torture.
We understand why CIA officials will find these findings embarrassing. But potential embarrassment is not a valid reason to try to deny Americans a full understanding of what their government did in their name. The military took its lumps when the Senate Armed Service Committee released its report on detainee abuse within its ranks and emerged as a stronger institution as a result. President Obama should ensure that the CIA does the same.
This report offers the best opportunity yet for us as a nation to come to terms with what our government did in our name. The debate is not historical or academic.
Again, rather than addressing any of the issues, or responding to their claims, Hayden goes back to the same tired line that the report is a “Democrat” report, and that since these generals haven’t seen it (while he has), they should not comment on it.
Hayden then goes on to brush off the now admitted spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee by the CIA, claiming that it was a “clumsy investigation” and not a “constitutional crisis”:
Supporters of the SSCI report are likening CIA opposition to the SSCI Democrats’ conclusions as an attack on oversight itself. CIA’s clumsy investigation into how Senate staffers acquired some documents feeds this story line, but forcefully saying the report is badly flawed isn’t a constitutional crisis — it’s a disagreement over facts.
But the “constitutional crisis” that people were discussing was not a “disagreement over facts” it was over the CIA, a part of the executive branch, spying on its overseers in the legislative branch. That is a constitutional issue. You’d think Hayden would be aware of the basic separation of powers, but perhaps not. Furthermore, it’s not the “SSCI Democrats’ conclusions.” The vote to declassify the report was not Intelligence Committee Democrats vs. Republicans but a bipartisan11 to 3 vote.
It seems that defenders of the CIA are getting fairly desperate in smearing anyone credible (including three highly respected former high ranking military officers) speaking out on why the CIA’s shameful torture program shouldn’t be hidden behind black ink.