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NSA whistleblowers testify in Bundestag inquiry, disclose ‘totalitarian’ surveillance

Published time: July 03, 2014 16:19
Edited time: July 05, 2014 03:44
AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

Former NSA agents-turned-whistleblowers are testifying before a German parliamentary committee as the Bundestag investigates America’s wiretapping methods with one of them branding the NSA approach “totalitarian.”

RELATED: XKeyscore exposed: How NSA tracks all German Tor users as 'extremists'

It is hoped that evidence from the two US citizens, William Binney and Thomas Drake, will shed light on the methods of surveillance used by the American National Security Agency (NSA), which eavesdropped on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leading German and European politicians.

Binney and Drake broke their silence long before ex-NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked revelations about American intelligence agencies’ practices last year.

At the hearing in Berlin on Thursday, Binney was first to answer questions and share what he know about the NSA’s spying practices. Speaking at length about the NSA’s technical refinements, structures and procedures, he denounced the surveillance practices of his former employer.

Former technical director of the National Security Agency (NSA) William Binney (C) sits in the witness stand of a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin investigating the NSA's activities in Germany July 3, 2014 (Reuters / Thomas Peter)

In his testimony, Binney compared the surveillance by the US Secret Service and the NSA with that by dictatorships.

“They want to have information about everything," Binney told the Bundestag committee. “This is really a totalitarian approach. The goal is control of the people.”

Binney was part of an elite NSA team for over 30 years, serving as a crypto-mathematician, and helped to design a top-secret espionage program for spying on Americans and other countries’ citizens all over the world.

“It is in principle possible to monitor the entire population – not only abroad, but also in the USA,” Binney said. “This is contrary to the Constitution. All people in the world have rights," he added.

Along with Drake and another two employees – Edward Loomis and Kirk Wiebe – Binney resigned in 2001 to speak out as a whistleblower after the agency began to collect data on Americans.

"After September 11, everything has changed," Binney said. “The NSA had used the attacks as a justification to launch a gigantic mass surveillance.”

The group criticized the NSA for its vast data collection policies, which they say bars the agency from effectively tracking actual terror plots in advance.

Former technical director of the National Security Agency (NSA) William Binney (Reuters / Thomas Peter)

Asked if the USA Freedom Act, a bill meant to end NSA surveillance of phone records that the House of Representatives passed in May, was “a move in the right direction,” Binney said the bill hadn’t made any difference.

“So many holes in that bill, no verification process. That isn't reform,” he said.

‘NSA monitoring regime strangling the world

Thomas Drake is a former NSA senior executive and whistleblower who was indicted in 2010 for espionage after leaking documents to the press that alleged that the intelligence agency was guilty of fraud, waste and abuses against the American people.

Thomas Drake, former National Security Agency analyst (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Drew Angerer)

Addressing the Bundestag committee, Thomas Drake said the NSA’s “monitoring regime has grown into a system that is strangling the world,” German Press Agency (DPA) quotes.

The US government practices are “the ultimate form of control”, Drake said testifying that virtually all data that pass through Germany is taken up by the NSA and German Intelligence Service.

“The Silence of the BND is terrible,” said Drake. “The public has a right to know what makes the NSA. The Internet security world is weakened. The private life is more and more becoming the property of the state.”

The BND has turned into a “vermiform appendix of the NSA,” Drake said, adding the BND’s assertion, that they had no knowledge of the mass data surveillance conducted by the NSA on German soil, is “beyond any credibility.”

Drake lamented that both of the country's intelligence services scattered “cryptologic sand” in the eyes of the people in order to conceal their “secret shadow relations.”

At the same time he said the German judiciary should take measures to protect its citizens.

“The weak control in Germany is a time bomb here.” Drake said. “A stronger legal control is urgently needed.”

For his whistleblowing activities, Drake was honored in 2011 with the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and co-recipient of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award.

Classified data leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA had been monitoring Germany’s Chancellor Merkel's personal cellphone. The US also used its Berlin embassy as a platform to monitor the mobile phone communications of other high-ranking German politicians.

Comments (27)

 

Bear 07.07.2014 13:36

The countries of the world really need to take notice on what is happening in Iraq. The ISIS stated that they will take back Spain from the infidels. With a high amount of people being accepted 'openly' by all countries is how they will do it for they already have their people in place to start the world burning in ashes backed by the Rouge American government.

 

Mr Vision 06.07.2014 15:42

When the NSA thinks they really need to spy on me for what ever reason then be my guest. There's nothing to find here nor i'm a threat to anyone. It's a waste of US citizen tax money.
They think they get some sort of short term benefit out of it in a certain way, but the truth is that it will hurt the US economy in the long run. When i want to do trade or go on vacation i will look at another direction.
The long term effect is that they will isolate themselves and the general community will suffer from these consequences.
Th e people in charge didn't really pay attention in their history and economy classes.

 

Bernd Walter 04.07.2014 20:14

Against the NSA the GDR-Stasi were young pathfinders.

View all comments (27)
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