This story should specify that the NSA is “overseen” by Congress and the courts very loosely and definitely not to the degree an organization of its scope and power merits. Otherwise, an interesting peek at how dangerous it is to be a whistleblower, and clarifying why Snowden went the route he did instead of complaining to his bosses.
- Bill Binney worked at the National Security Agency nearly three decades as one of its leading crypto-mathematicians. He then became one of its leading whistleblowers. Now 70 and on crutches, both legs lost to diabetes, Binney recalls the July morning seven years ago when a dozen gun-wielding FBI agents burst through the front door of his home, at the end of a cul-de-sac a 10-minute drive from NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. “I first knew that they were in there when they were pointing a gun at me as I was coming out of the shower,” Binney says. When I ask him why the agents were there, he replies: “Well, it was to keep us quiet.” The NSA is overseen by Congress, the courts and other government departments. It’s also supposed to be watched from the inside by its own workers. But over the past dozen years, whistleblowers like Binney have had a rough track record. Those who tried unsuccessfully to work within the system say Edward Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who shared top-secret documents with reporters — learned from their bitter experience. For Binney, the decision to quit the NSA and become a whistleblower began a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he says he discovered the spy agency had begun using software he’d created to scoop up information on Americans — all without a court order.