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article imageVideo: Former NSA official admits gov't collects most U.S. emails

By Elliott Freeman     Apr 22, 2012 in Politics
In his first live TV interview last Friday, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney blew the lid off of the secrecy surrounding the agency's ongoing surveillance of phone calls and emails inside the United States.
Binney, the former technical director of the agency's World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, told Democracy Now hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez that Stellar Wind, the NSA wiretapping program begun in the wake of 9/11, still has unprecedented access to private domestic communications.
When Goodman asked if the government currently has copies of all emails sent by U.S. citizens within the United States (at 46:05 in the video clip), Binney replied, "I believe they have most of them, yes."
According to Binney, the NSA receives around 320 million domestic communication records daily from telecom firms like AT&T. "They had to be given retroactive immunity for the crimes they were committing," he explained (at 50:40), referring to the U.S. Senate's decision in 2008 to reject several prominent lawsuits against internet and phone companies that were handing over customer data to the U.S. government.
These revelations dovetail with the claims of former AT&T technician Mark Klein. In 2006, Klein told ABC News that the NSA came into the San Francisco offices where he worked and tapped into the main communication lines of AT&T and 16 other internet and phone companies, making copies of all web traffic coming across the fiber optic connections.
After the implementation of the Stellar Wind program in 2001, Binney resigned from the NSA in disgust. "At that point, I knew I could not stay," he told Democracy Now, "because it was a direct violation of the Constitutional rights of everybody in the country." However, Binney remained in close contact with several NSA employees until a few years ago, Wired Magazine reports.
While Binney has become an ardent critic of the wiretapping activities conducted under President George W. Bush, he believes that the Obama Administration has eclipsed its predecessor's efforts to conduct warrantless eavesdropping operations on U.S. soil.
"Actually, I think the surveillance has increased," Binney stated (at 51:32). "I would suggest they have assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens."
The startling claims made by Binney come in stark contrast to the statements put forth by NSA Director General Keith Alexander during a congressional hearing last month. Forbes reported that under questioning by Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson, Alexander repeatedly denied that the NSA has the capability to intercept or monitor domestic emails.
Binney also condemned the Patriot Act and the extraordinary powers it grants to the Federal government. "That gives them license to take all the commercially available data about us, which is exceedingly dangerous," he said (at 45:05). "[The NSA] can build up knowledge about everyone in the country, and having that knowledge then allows them the ability to concoct all kinds of charges."
While Binney was able to defeat criminal charges he claims were fabricated by the U.S. government, the powers granted to the executive branch under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allow U.S. citizens to be detained indefinitely without charges or trial, according to the ACLU. Due to the clandestine manner in which the NSA and other government agencies operate, Americans could be unlawfully imprisoned as a result of these illegal spying programs -- and the public would never know.
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