On the 3/6/2017 edition of Sean Hannity’s radio program, everyone’s favorite Irishman interviewed William Binney, the NSA whistleblower who resigned his agency post way back in 2001. Binney refused to continue working for a federal agency that took it upon itself to violate the US Constitution, with its wiretap programs nicknamed ThinThread and Stellar Wind. This may be old news to some of y’all, but it bears repeating today, in light of King Putt’s last-minute executive action permitting sharing of collected data across multiple agencies, as well as James Comey’s aggressive and likely illegal leaking of data collected by the NSA.
Binney pointed out in 2001, and again to Sean today, that the NSA uses its unconstitutional, self-assigned powers to collect so-called metadata on EVERYone using electronic communications in the USA. That data is used to build profiles of American citizens: Their political words and actions, their purchase and contribution habits, the names and numbers of people with whom they communicate. No warrant or court order is required for this collection, just a “reasonable suspicion” on the part of some asshat bureaucrat or political hack. Here’s a Business Insider story by Michael Kelley from June 2013:
William Binney, one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in National Security Agency (NSA) history — worked for America’s premier covert intelligence gathering organization for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he “could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.”
Binney claims that the NSA took one of the programs he built, known as ThinThread, and started using the program and members of his team to spy on virtually every U.S. citizen under the code-name Stellar Wind.
Thanks to NSA whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden, documents detailing the top-secret surveillance program have now been published for the first time. And they corroborate what Binney has said for years.
The collection of email metadata on Americans began in late 2001, under a top-secret NSA program started shortly after 9/11, according to the documents. Known as Stellar Wind, the program initially did not rely on the authority of any court – and initially restricted the NSA from analyzing records of emails between communicants wholly inside the US. However, the NSA subsequently gained authority to “analyze communications metadata associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States,” according to a secret Justice Department memo from 2007 that was obtained by the Guardian.
Binney says that ThinThread was built to track electronic activities — phone calls, emails, banking and travel records, social media , etc. — and map them to collect “all the attributes that any individual has” in every type of activity and build a real-time profile based on that data. “So that now I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time,” Binney told documentarian Laura Poitras in “The Program” (emphasis ours). Binney added that the purpose of the program is “to be able to monitor what people are doing” and who they are doing it with.
Greenwald and Ackerman, citing the NSA documents, describe how mining metadata from U.S. phone calls and especially Internet communications, which continues to this day, allows the NSA to performs “contact chaining” by which the agency can analyze “networks with two degrees of separation (two hops) from [a] target.”
From The Guardian: “The calls you make can reveal a lot, but now that so much of our lives are mediated by the internet, your IP [internet protocol] logs are really a real-time map of your brain: what are you reading about, what are you curious about, what personal ad are you responding to (with a dedicated email linked to that specific ad), what online discussions are you participating in, and how often?” said Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute. “Seeing your IP logs – and especially feeding them through sophisticated analytic tools – is a way of getting inside your head that’s in many ways on par with reading your diary,” Sanchez added.
On July 2 Binney, along with two other former NSA employees, agreed to provide evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit (Jewel vs. NSA) that alleges the U.S. government operates an illegal mass surveillance program. Given the latest leaks, that testimony looks rock solid. And Greenwald and Ackerman report that the NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO) directorate has “ongoing plans to expand metadata collection.”
“I should apologize to the American people,” Binney told Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. “It’s violated everyone’s rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world.”
Binney told Sean about Section 702 of the FISA act, which provides the legal underpinning for NSA’s data collection. Congress had several opportunities during the past few years to rein this program in, and (surprise!) failed to do so. Here we have two federal agencies, populated by unelected political appointees, constructing an obviously unconstitutional, but legal, web to spy on anyone and everyone they so choose. Dai Kayyali of The Electronic Frontier Foundation detailed this in May 2014:
The Way the NSA Uses Section 702 is Deeply Troubling. Here’s Why.
The most recent disclosure of classified NSA documents revealed that the British spy agency GCHQ sought unfettered access to NSA data collected under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Not only does this reveal that the two agencies have a far closer relationship than GCHQ would like to publicly admit, it also serves as a reminder that surveillance under Section 702 is a real problem that has barely been discussed, much less addressed, by Congress or the President.
In fact, the “manager’s amendment” to the USA FREEDOM Act, which passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary Committee, has weakened the minimal changes to Section 702 that USA FREEDOM originally offered. Although Representative Zoe Lofgren—who clearly understands the import of Section 702—offered several very good amendments that would have addressed these gaps, her amendments were all voted down. There’s still a chance though—as this bill moves through Congress it can be strengthened by amendments from the floor.
Section 702 has been used by the NSA to justify mass collection of phone calls and emails by collecting huge quantities of data directly from the physical infrastructure of communications providers. Here’s what you should know about the provision and why it needs to be addressed by Congress and the President:
- Most of the discussion around the NSA has focused on the phone records surveillance program. Unlike that program, collection done under Section 702 captures content of communications. This could include content in emails, instant messages, Facebook messages, web browsing history, and more.
- Even though it’s ostensibly used for foreign targets, Section 702 surveillance sweeps up the communications of Americans. The NSA has a twisted, and incredibly permissive, interpretation of targeting that includes communications about a target, even if the communicating parties are completely innocent. As John Oliver put it in his interview with former NSA General Keith Alexander: “No, the target is not the American people, but it seems that too often you miss the target and hit the person next to them going, ‘Whoa, him!'”
- The NSA has confirmed that it is searching Section 702 data to access American’s communications without a warrant, in what is being called the “back door search loophole.” In response to questions from Senator Ron Wyden, former NSA director General Keith Alexander admitted that the NSA specifically searches Section 702 data using “U.S. person identifiers,” for example email addresses associated with someone in the U.S.
- The NSA has used Section 702 to justify programs in which the NSA can siphon off large portions of Internet traffic directly from the Internet backbone. These programs exploit the structure of the Internet, in which a significant amount of traffic from around the world flows through servers in the United States. In fact, through Section 702, the NSA has access to information stored by major Internet companies like Facebook and Google.
- Section 702 is likely used for computer security operations. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted Section 702’s use to obtain communications “regarding potential cyber threats” and to prevent “hostile cyber activities.” Richard Ledgett, Deputy Director of NSA, noted the use of intelligence authorities to mitigate cyber attacks.
- The FISA Court has little opportunity to review Section 702 collection. The court approves procedures for 702 collection for up to a year. This is not approval of specific targets, however; “court review [is] limited to ‘procedures’ for targeting and minimization rather than the actual seizure and searches.” This lack of judicial oversight is far beyond the parameters of criminal justice.
- Not only does the FISA Court provide little oversight, Congress is largely in the dark about Section 702 collection as well. NSA spying defenders say that Congress has been briefed on these programs. But other members of Congress have repeatedly noted that it is incredibly difficult to get answers from the intelligence community, and that attending classified hearings means being unable to share any information obtained at such hearings. What’s more, as Senator Barbara Mikulski stated: “‘Fully briefed’ doesn’t mean that we know what’s going on.” Without a full picture of Section 702 surveillance, Congress simply cannot provide oversight.
- Section 702 is not just about keeping us safe from terrorism. It’s a distressingly powerful surveillance tool. While the justification we’ve heard repeatedly is that NSA surveillance is keeping us safer, data collected under Section 702 can be shared in a variety of circumstances, such as ordinary criminal investigations. For example, the NSA has shared intelligence with the Drug Enforcement Agency that has led to prosecutions for drug crimes, all while concealing the source of the data.
- The President has largely ignored Section 702. While the phone records surveillance program has received significant attention from President Obama, in his speeches and his most recent proposal, Section 702 remains nearly untouched. [What a surprise: King Putt did not put a stop to this statist overreach.]
- The way the NSA uses Section 702 is illegal and unconstitutional—and it violates international human rights law. Unlike searches done under a search warrant authorized by a judge, Section 702 has been used by the NSA to get broad FISA court authorization for general search and seizure of huge swathes of communications. The NSA says this is OK because Section 702 targets foreign citizens. The problem is, once constitutionally protected communications of Americans are swept up, the NSA says these communications are “fair game” for its use.
- Innocent non-Americans don’t even get the limited and much abused protections the NSA promises for Americans. Under international human rights law to which the United States is a signatory, the United States must respect the rights of all persons. With so many people outside the United States keeping their data with American companies, and so much information being swept up through mass surveillance, that makes Section 702 the loophole for the NSA to violate the privacy rights of billions of Internet users worldwide.
The omission of Section 702 reform from the discourse around NSA surveillance is incredibly concerning, because this provision has been used to justify some of the most invasive NSA surveillance. That’s why EFF continues to push for real reform of NSA surveillance that includes an end to Section 702 collection. You can help by educating yourself and engaging your elected representatives. Print out our handy one-page explanation of Section 702.
Why bring this “old news” up now? Because King Putt and his toxic residue of deep-state scum are using these very methods to try to disable Donald Trump, with unsubstantiated claims of wiretapped communications with Boris and Natasha that originated from within Trump Tower during the presidential campaign. The deep-staters already wrecked Mike Kelly with leaked data. Smidge McConnell and the other passive twits that pose as conservatives refuse to call for independent counsel to expose and prosecute the people in violation of federal laws: Collecting this data is legal (even if unconstitutional), but publishing it is a felony.
Section 702 is an incredibly wide-reaching and powerful tool. In the hands of vengeful losers in the political world, it can be employed with the effectiveness of a cluster bomb to take out the opposition. And today we have not just vengeful losers, we have active treasonous rodents gnawing at the heart of our Republic. They want to destroy Donald Trump’s team one by one. They are capable of destroying you and me simply because we subscribe to this newsletter.
Jeff Sessions may be “recused” from this class of case, but there is a cadre of skilled lawyers who’d likely take this on pro bono. Jay Sekulow would be first in line; Ted Cruz is also a likely candidate.
The takeaway: DJT cannot, must not let this festering pussbucket continue to slosh around his Administration. A thorough investigation would inevitably yield felony convictions of Comey and the residual minions still in the FBI and the NSA, and maybe even Barry Soetero his own self. What are we waiting for??
— SafeSpace —