NSA is one of a number of spy agencies which do not have to be subjected to audits. That makes them extremely vulnerable to corruption. Whistleblower and former high level NSA 30 year employee William Binney says that corruption at NSA is rampant.
NSA has come under intense scrutiny because of Edward Snowdens disclosures about their spying on all Americans. But there are more problems at NSA than their violation of the fourth amendment protections of the constitution.
NSA is one of a number of spy agencies which do not have to be subjected to audits. That makes them extremely vulnerable to corruption. Whistleblower and former high level NSA 30 year employee William Binney says that NSA is an incredibly corrupt, broken institution and described how the corruption in the system works.
William Binney, 30 year NSA veteran, former employee
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In an interview on the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM, reaching Metro Philly) Binney described the way decisions are made at NSA by corporations.
William Binney was technical director of the world geopolitical and military analysis and reporting Group at NSA and Co-founder of the SIGINT Automation Research Center.
In another part of the interview, Binney described how his attempts at revealing corruption and problems at NSA to the House Intelligence committee through normal, legal channels, led to him being charged with crimes, harassment and attempts to destroy his life and career. He confirmed that if Edward Snowden had attempted to pursue a similar path, it would not have worked. He called the people who suggested this was what Snowden should have done and that it would have been dealt with, "liars."
The interview below raises some important direct questions. But it also, between the lines might also suggest that the reasons NSA has been spying on all americans may involve corporate motivations and also abuses by US law enforcement people-- police and prosecutors-- abuses that could invalidate thousands of cases.
The following partial transcript tells the story of financial corruption at NSA:
Rob: What are the corporations that NSA farms out work to?
Bill: SAIC, TRW, Booz Allen, CFC There's a whole set of buildings that popped up after 911, right next to NSA, so they could be close and keep their contract influence growing. It's like they'e close to the source of the money and the honey.
Rob: We're talking hundreds of thousands of employees.
Bill: around the world, that's right.
Rob: And these are hundreds of thousands of employees making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year each"
Bill: Whatever they bill, divide it in two"
Rob: So you're saying, if Snowden was getting a salary of $200,000, then Booz Allen was probably getting $400,000.
Bill: That's correct.
Rob: Wow. I can see how they could build some pretty big high rises quickly.
Bill: And that's what they did. They're all lined up across the parkway from NSA.
Rob: But it's worse. What you've said was that the decisions made by NSA were made by the corporations"
Bill: Or extremely influenced by them. Yes. That's correct.
Rob: Can you talk about that some more. What does that mean?
Bill: When they would go, for example, to get proposals from corporations, they would say, "why don't you write the proposals for me," and they would do that, or they would write solicitations for them. NSA is supposed to write solicitations for proposals or bids on what the government wanted done. But they could actually have contractors writing for them. So the contractors would write the requests for proposals and then would write the responses to the proposals. So it was like they were doing both ends of the job.
Bill: And that's how the incestuous relationship operates.
Rob: And there was talk about how the employees at NSA would get paid-- that the money tree would come to them. How would the money tree come to them if they were working as government employees.
Bill: It would work pretty much like this. If they retired or quit NSA they could go to the contractors and work for the contractors at a higher salary, then come back to NSA to all the people they knew and influence them to get contracts.
Rob: Would you say this was a very common occurrence?
Bill: Yes. It was quite common. All you have to do is look at the people who are the higher level people and look at they retire from NSA or CIA or other agencies of government and look at where they go for jobs and who they contract and you can see the influence there.
Rob: So let me just recapitulate this. So, what happens is,a company goes to NSA and says "we have a project we'd like to sell you." Someone from NSA says, "Okay, write up the request for the proposal. I'll put it in and then you can write up the response to the proposal.
Bill: Yeah, and "tell me how much it's going to cost," and that comes from the corporation.
Rob: "and how much am I going to get out of it?"
Bill: Well you get the promise of employment and a higher salary when you retire from government. Or if you quit early you can come over and work for the corporation.
Rob: Do they get signing bonuses as well.
Rob: So they could get a signing bonus that's enough to pay for a house, right?
Bill: Some of them do. I'm sure. Some of them get multi-million dollar contracts per year. They'd have to be fairly senior and have lots of contacts to get that kind of money though.
Rob: Well they're the ones who would make these sweet deals. It sounds like it's an incredibly corrupt, broken institution.
Bill: In many ways, that's absolutely true.
Hear more in the interview, which picks up at the 44:00 minute mark. We discussed how the call tracking and recording program he worked on cost under $15 million, but that contractors were brought in to create programs that cost billions of dollars, which did less.
Rob:" It seems that this reciprocity thing, where people bring in projects with the expectation that they're going to get hired and get bonuses-- Is there any system at NSA to prevent abuse of that?
Bill: No, because they're not audited. They are not audited by the government anywhere.. The government accounting office does not not audit them at all. So, they have no threat of being viewed as to how they spend money. The only thing that can happen is the IG, internally, in NSA has to do something, and get involved to do something there. That's the only way they can get exposed. Otherwise the government doesn't even look at how they spend money.
Rob: That's insane. How much is the NSA Budget?
Bill: Overall I'd say it's maybe $10 billion a year, but they also have influence on another six maybe billion that are assigned to the SigInt services-- the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines" so the sum total is probably $16 to $18 billion total.
Rob: Wow. And that's what they admit to, right?
Bill: As far as I know, yes. Or, that's what, to a certain degree, has been exposed by Snowden. He gave the NSA budget-- a little over ten billion-- but he didn't have all the figures there-it's larger, so I'm not sure what he's missing there.
Rob: Are there criminals operating at NSA?
Bill: I certainly think some of them should be referred to the DOJ for criminal investigation, but I don't have any confidence that anybody at the DOJ would investigate them now. Even if they had clear evidence that they were swindling money out of the government or corrupting or knowingly committing fraud, I don't think they'd do anything about it.
Rob: So, what kind of people should be investigated by the DOJ, if you could get them to investigate them? What would they be guilty of or investigated for?
Bill: Well, defrauding the government of money. I mean that's pretty clear. All they'd have to do is look at the financial tracks. But they'd have to do an audit. That's why they feel free, when they're not audited, that's where corruption comes in and it comes in in abundance. And clearly, they don't think anybody is going to do anything about it anyway. And so far, by the way, I would point out, they are right.
Rob: Are there other areas in government that are not audited?
Bill: Yes. Basically, the intelligence community.
Rob: Wow. And how much is the total budget for the intelligence community?
Bill: Somewhere in the order of $80 to $100 billion a year. Since 911 it's been over half a trillion that the country has invested in the intelligence community.
There's a lot more in the interview-- almost an hour more.
But it seems to me that congress has been grossly negligent failing to do its job, or, more likely, intentionally choosing not to do the job, allowing literally billions of dollars of waste, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and corruption to go on un-audited, unaccountably, with little risk.
I talked to Binney about the need for some kind of independent investigation. We agreed that congress should appoint an independent prosecutor. Binney suggested that Bruce Fein would be a good nominee. I agree. It's time that congress begins to aggressively rein in the out of control NSA.
I want to thank Jana Nestlerode, professor at Westchester University, for helping to connect me with Bill Binney.
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