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Mehr als 30 Jahre stand William Binney im Dienst der NSA. Als der Geheimdienst seinen Kurs änderte und damit begann, Telefone und Computer Millionen unbescholtener Bürger anzuzapfen, warf er hin. Im persönlichen Gespräch berichtet der Ex-Spion über eine unheilvolle Allianz der US-Geheimdienste mit großen Konzernen und weshalb gerade wir Deutsche gewarnt sein müssten (Teil 1 der Reihe „The Farm“ hier).
Gestrandet in Berlin
William Binney, ehem. technischer Direktor der NSA, links neben ihm Laura Poitras, jene Dokumentarfilmerin, die Edward Snowden in Hong Kong interviewt hat, ihr gegenüber Jacob Appelbaum, Datenschutz-Aktivist und Mitgründer des Tor-Netzwerks. Es ist eine außergewöhnliche Runde, die sich da am Abend im Deutschen Historischen Museum eingefunden hat. Hier, Unter den Linden, fühlen sie sich sicher, und das obwohl sich die US-Botschaft mit ihrem Horchposten nur wenige Häuserblocks weiter die Straße runter befindet.
Das liegt bestimmt auch daran, dass heute hier die Auszeichnungen zum Journalisten-des-Jahres vergeben werden. Die Gästeliste liest sich wie das Who-is-Who der deutschen Medienszene: FAZ-Herausgeber, ARD-Chefredakteure, Spiegel-Ressortleiter und Springer-Kolumnisten sitzen Seite an Seite. Dazwischen die US-Amerikaner, die hier in Berlin so etwas wie Exil gefunden haben. Während Binney auch weiterhin in den USA lebt, haben Poitras und Appelbaum beschlossen, in Deutschland zu bleiben. In ihre Heimat können oder wollen sie nicht zurück. Ihr Amerika, so wie sie es kannten, existiert nicht mehr.
Stoff für einen Action-Film
William „Bill“ Binney gilt als einer der besten Code-Breaker, den die NSA je hervorgebracht hatte. Mehr als 30 Jahre hat er für den US-Geheimdienst Codes geknackt. Seine Lebensgeschichte hat das Zeug für einen Jerry-Bruckheimer-Film: Als junger Analyst kämpfte er gegen die Sowjet-Russen. Später stieg er zum geopolitisch technischen Direktor der Behörde auf.
Nach 9/11 änderte sich alles: Die Total-Überwachung unschuldiger Amerikaner wollte er nicht mittragen. Er wandte sich an seine Vorgesetzte und Kongress-Abgeordnete – ohne Erfolg. Schließlich warf er hin, verzichtete freiwillig auf seine volle Pension. Eines Morgens, erzählt er, trat er aus der Dusche und blickte in die Mündung eines Sturmgewehrs. Eine Sondereinheit des FBI hatte sein Haus gestürmt, um Festplatten und Computer zu beschlagnahmen. Binney stand im Verdacht, geheime Unterlagen an die New York Times weitergereicht zu haben.
Das Interview mit William Binney fand im Februar am Rande der Preisverleihung in Berlin statt und wird heute hier zum ersten Mal veröffentlicht:
G! blog: What do you think of Obamas proposals for a NSA-reform?
William Binney: It was all pretty much dressing on an existing pig. We say ‚lipstick on a pig‘ – it’s just window dressing, nothing substantially changes. They say they didn’t want to change the foundation of the program. Maybe on who held the data. That doesn’t change the program. It simply says instead of violating your constitutions right now, we’re gonna delay it. Right now they can only trust. There’s no verification process. Even the senior judge of the FISA court said he has a limited capacity to verify what they were telling him. In fact, he has none! How can he verify the facts that NSA presents.
There’s no checks and balances?
No, there isn’t. None. The oversight from Congress to the Courts has been a joke from the very beginning.
What about the FISA-court?
They can’t. How can they. They are no technical. Some of them don’t even send e-Mail. (laughs) I mean, how are they gonna go check on secret operation, they wouldn’t know where to go. How to operate it or what to do.
What can be done to change that?
You got to ensure that your intelligence agencies are really telling you the truth. And you need a way to verify this. This is the only way, you can verify this!
What would be the worst case scenario for the future of our society?
Worst case, they do nothing and it goes to that end result where, not only they’re watching where you are but they have all this electronic data on you and they have automated algorithms to figure out what you’re thinking when you’re moving around and where you are when you are doing it. That’s the real 1984.
Who is „they“? Who are we up against?
We’re up against an entire military and industrial intelligence complex. It’s like an incestuos organizational relationship between the Committees, the White House and the agencies.
So but who’s running the United States then?
It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? (laughs) That’s right!
What’s their motive?
Money. Money and contracts. Just to exist and grow. Keep the problem going so the money keeps flowing! The problems they have today are the same problems they had 20years ago. They’ve only marginally touched them. That means, they can drag this out for another hundred years without solving the problems.
So it’s not about terrorism?
No. They say it is. But for example the domestic collection, the bulk collection worldwide on individuals is for law enforcement. It’s not for terrorism.
Why tapping the phone of Merkel?
That’s for the Department of State and the White House to see into how she’s thinking and feeling so they know how to deal with her or know how to frame proposals to her and things like that. I mean, this has been diplomacy from the very beginning of time. Find out how the leaders of other countries are thinking. That’s standard. Every country does that.
What was your personal background at the NSA?
I just ended my technical directorship of the world geopolitical and military analysis and reporting shop. So that was all reporting out of the NSA and all of the analysis out of it.
And that was located where..?
It was in the main A-frame-bulding of the NSA. I had several offices.
In Fort Meade?
Yeah. For 27 years I worked the Soviet Union. The military mostly.
Yes, breaking codes, working on cyphers. All sorts of data systems and data. I had a whole mix of things I did. I started working on the digital age stuff. And I worked up a program that managed to do a focus attack of selection. It was a question of selection, not collection. You didn’t want to collect the bulk. You wanted to select smartly out of the bulk. 2001 the 9/11-attack, they used that as a way of changing that. They started spying on everybody in the United States. They started that bulk acquisition. That was unconstitutional and illegal under any number of laws at that time. And so I said I couldn’t stick with that. I couldn’t be there. They go around saying: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, you know, a lot of people are gonna die! Well, if you do your intelligence correctly, they should have never have achieved 9/11. We should have stopped them. They had all the data to do it. They were just depending on people going into the databases and find it. Even back then, when there was no bulk acquisition of data, they couldn’t find it. Because there was too much data. When there was such a miniscuel amount to begin with.Now the’ve started bulk-data and they increased that data-pile that they have by orders of magnitude. Now it’s orders of magnitude harder to find things they couldn’t find in the beginning before 9/11.
Tonight, we are surrounded by Germany’s finest journalists. Are journalists a primary target for the NSA?
(pointing at my smartphone) Does that have GPS?
It does, but it is in flight mode right now.
Ahmmm… (grinning) that doesn’t stop it, okay? So what that means is, they’ve already taken over five billion GPS locations on every cell-phone in the world. Every day. So, if they want to focus on you they get multiple intel on you every hour and watch you very closely. Journalists are a primary target, yes. For the very simple reason because whatever you report may be of interest or may indicate that there’s some sort of leak from inside the government or from some other source. The point is, they watch you as a primary reporter of that because you have sources and when they contact you they will find out who they are.
That’s your theory. That hasn’t been proved yet…
That’s not true. Jim Risen has had his phone records pointed out. So is Jesselyn Rag, so is the AP and Jim Rosen on the Fox news, those are only the tip of the iceberg. They do them all!
What’s your vision for the future?
Electronic data will tell them things like what you’re thinking. And the video will tell them where you are when you are thinking that. And that’s what the future holds. If you want to be under that kind of surveillance, then just do nothing and it will end up that way – eventually! Let’s put it this way: The last NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that Obama signed that they just passed had, I think still section 1021, a section that said: the President has the right to declare somebody a terrorist threat and have the military take them off the street, incarcerate them indefinitely with no due process. If you all remember, and you are Germans, you should remember there was this special order 48 issued by the Nazis in 1933 after Reichstag-fire. That’s exactly what they did here. They (the Nazis) issued that order and took that Communists and all the opposition off the street and put them into concentration camps. This is the first step for us going in that direction.
What’s with that NSA facility in Utah?
It’s just a big storage facility. They’re having trouble with it though, you know. As far as I know the last ten times they turned on the power for that system it burned out the equipment. It costs them a few million dollars every time they turn it on because they don’t have a good power distribution inside the building.
One of the Senators of Utah was on the armed services committee voting for budgets and so on. It all helps to make friends, you know. (pause) It’s all about money.
Do you know how much data they’re storing?
According to Cisco, they said that they can store by 2015 they could be running storage on the rate of 966 Exxabites, thats almost a Zetabyte per year. That means just about everything that’s transmitted in the world. If you’re talking about Meta-data, the Meta-data of the entire world for a hundred years and all of the relationships through it would fit inside this room and probably would not even take up half of this room.
You mean the phone calls, and even the content of the phone calls…?
Yes. That and e-Mails, the file-transfers, all that kind of data that’s passed on the internet, yeah. All of it.
What about the big tech-companies? What’s their role?
Oh, they are part of it. They are participating. They were part of the PRISM-program. Microsoft and all those. They are cooperating. After all, NSA gives them money for their data. They didn’t consider the consequences of the actions they took joining these programs. They never considered the ramifications of it being exposed. That was very short sighted. And so now they are suffering the result.
In der Recherche-Reihe “THE FARM” sind bislang erschienen:
Teil 3: Holger Stark: „Der NSA Komplex“
Teil 4: Lavabit-Gründer: Let’s go dark!