Much has been written about the NSA, and it has rarely been cast in a positive light by the internet privacy industry. The latest attack against the agency was launched by former NSA employee turned whistleblower, William Binney. Binney had a solid 30- year career with NSA, and witnessed its rapid growth in the 80’s and 90’s, culminating with his being named its technical director. In a recent interview, Binney states that the reason for all the NSA surveillance comes down to money and power-stopping terrorism is secondary in his view.
Purportedly, the massive effort at data collection has been essentially useless in stopping terrorism. Multiple independent studies of the NSA activities seem to have confirmed this. Thus the next logical question would be why does the NSA keep doing it? Binney offers an explanation:
’Money. It takes lots of money. You have to build up Bluffdale ( the Utah based NSA storage center) 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? If you have a problem, you need money to solve it. But if you solve the 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.’
From his description it would appear that the NSA has a vested interest in keeping the waters muddied. It has been pointed out that institutions try to preserve problems where they are also the solution. This is why the spy agency keeps up the drum roll of the perceived threat- to keep the mother’s milk of government, i.e. money, flowing. Once they have garnered a huge flow of money, of infrastructure, then they have to maintain it. So they manufacture other threats which creates continuous problems that require more money. And so it goes. This makes whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and William Binney so threatening. The generous, unchecked flow of money may end.
Binney characterized the NSA bureaucrats as ’cowards’ who are changing the US 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.’ He then goes on to relate the elaborate process by which a change can be made to the constitution. ’These cowards are doing it in secret’, he opines.
His arguments should give pause to those as an election cycle approaches in the US. The last six years of the Obama administration have seen the greatest ramp-up of surveillance, and the resultant greatest threats to privacy and liberty, in history. Maybe it’s time that ’the most transparent’ government in history is sent a message.