Following the 2001 terror attack masterminded by Osama bin Laden, the US government changed surveillance policy drastically, secretly and illegally, according to one of the authors of an NSA program designed to eavesdrop, collect and data-mine foreign communications.
Courtesy of the NY Times, filmmaker Laura Poitras profiles William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency who helped design a top-secret program he says is broadly collecting Americans' personal data.
Before the September 11 terror attacks, the "piece of paper" known as the US Constitution provided protection for every American from this invasion of privacy, however a "decision point" changed this when then President George Bush, VP Dick Cheney, CIA Director George Tenet and NSA chief Michael Hayden conspired to violate these rights.
Bush and Cheney decided that Osama bin Laden's strike would render our Fourth Amendment rights invalid, despite ironclad language. From the US Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized
In simplest terms, the terrorists won, changing American tradition of freedom and liberty. Today, fear of terror attacks drive a policy expressly prohibited since 1791.
This was not done openly, with the consent of the governed or through Constitutional law making. It was done secretly, and according to NSA technical director William Binney, also targets every member of Congress.
Binney resigned in protest the same year, as his NSA collection and surveillance operation turned inward, forgoing necessary approvals and warrants to reflect the checks and balances enshrined in America's founding principles.
Perhaps most jarring, Binney says 9/11 was only the excuse to flip the switch on a project already underway - the 'domestic' program was green-lighted at the very inception of the Bush presidency in February, 2001. From Wired.com:
"He said the NSA began building its data collection system to spy on Americans prior to 9/11, and then used the terrorist attacks that occurred that year as the excuse to launch the data collection project.
"It started in February 2001 when they started asking telecoms for data," Binney said. "That to me tells me that the real plan was to spy on Americans from the beginning."
The Obama team has been reluctant since day one to "look backwards" at these crimes, but one transition team member revealed in 2011 that Obama actually feared a coup - the NSA or CIA might revolt if he defended citizens' rights. Just the opposite, the NSA is now revolting against the Administration for failing to uphold the Bill of Rights, with Binney just one of several whistleblowers speaking out.
Mr. Binney even says Obama has expanded on the program by collecting the email communications of every American. Republicans never bring this criticism up of the President. Even if former Constitutional law professor Obama rationalizes a trade-off of guaranteed civil liberties for better security, questions remain. Why this was not done with Congress or the courts, why do the networks not report on this, why isn't this an issue in elections, and why not make it legal.
Osama bin Laden's Stated Plan
After bleeding the USSR dry over ten years plus, Osama bin Laden vowed next to bankrupt the United States - and Bush obliged.
US foreign policy was a chief campaign issue in 2004, until the economy actually did crash. Since then, attention has shifted. Spending planned by both parties for this surveillance continues to bleed the US economy. The video above shows the largest NSA data collection facility in history under construction.
If you hear a strange noise, it might be bin Laden laughing from hell over the protests of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason...
We welcome comments from anyone who wishes to defend the NSA data collection program Stellar Wind.
(OpEdNews Contributing Editor since October 2006) Inner city schoolteacher from New York, mostly covering media manipulation. I put election/finance reform ahead of all issues but also advocate for fiscal conservatism, ethics in journalism and (more...)