We Call a Top NSA Whistleblower ... And Get the REAL SCOOP on Spying

George Washington's picture

We reported in 2008 that foreign companies have had key roles scooping up Americans’ communications for the NSA:

At least two foreign companies play key roles in processing the information.


Specifically, an Israeli company called Narus processes all of the information tapped by AT &T (AT & T taps, and gives to the NSA, copies of all phone calls it processes), and an Israeli company called Verint processes information tapped by Verizon (Verizon also taps, and gives to the NSA, all of its calls).

Business Insider notes today:

The newest information regarding the NSA domestic spying scandal raises an important question: If America’s tech giants didn’t ‘participate knowingly’ in the dragnet of electronic communication, how does the NSA get all of their data?


One theory: the NSA hired two secretive Israeli companies to wiretap the U.S. telecommunications network.


In April 2012 Wired’s James Bamford — author of the book “The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America” — reported that two companies with extensive links to Israel’s intelligence service provided hardware and software the U.S. telecommunications network for the National Security Agency (NSA).


By doing so, this would imply, companies like Facebook and Google don’t have to explicitly provide the NSA with access to their servers because major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Verizon already allows the U.S. signals intelligence agency to eavesdrop on all of their data anyway.


From Bamford (emphasis ours):

“According to a former Verizon employee briefed on the program, Verint, owned by Comverse Technology, taps the communication lines at Verizon


At AT&T the wiretapping rooms are powered by software and hardware from Narus, now owned by Boeing, a discovery made by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein in 2004.”

Klein, an engineer, discovered the “secret room” at AT&T central office in San Francisco, through which the NSA actively “vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T” through the wiretapping rooms, emphasizing that “much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic.”


NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake corroborated Klein’s assertions, testifying that while the NSA is using Israeli-made NARUS hardware to “seize and save all personal electronic communications.”


Both Verint and Narus were founded in Israel in the 1990s.




Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record,” Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California company, said. “We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their (voice over internet protocol) calls.”


With a telecom wiretap the NSA only needs companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple to passively participate while the agency to intercepts, stores, and analyzes their communication data. The indirect nature of the agreement would provide tech giants with plausible deniability.


And having a foreign contractor bug the telecom grid would mean that the NSA gained access to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the U.S. without technically doing it themselves.


This would provide the NSA, whose official mission is to spy on foreign communications, with plausible deniability regarding domestic snooping.

The reason that Business Insider is speculating about the use of private Israeli companies to thwart the law is that 2 high-ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee – Senators Wyden and Udall – have long said that the government has adopted a secret interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act which would shock Americans, because it provided a breath-takingly wide program of spying.

Last December, top NSA whistleblower William Binney – a 32-year NSA veteran with the title of senior technical director, who headed the agency’s global digital data gathering program (featured in a New York Times documentary, and the source for much of what we know about NSA spying) – said that the government is using a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act which allows the government to obtain:

Any data in any third party, like any commercial data that’s held about U.S. citizens ….

(relevant quote starts at 4:19).

I called Binney to find out what he meant.

I began by asking Binney if Business Insider’s speculation was correct.  Specifically, I asked Binney if the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was that a foreign company – like Narus, for example – could vacuum up information on Americans, and then the NSA would obtain that data under the excuse of spying on foreign entities … i.e. an Israeli company.

Binney replied no … it was broader than that.

Binney explained that the government is taking the position that it can gather and use any information about American citizens living on U.S. soil if it comes from:

Any service provider … any third party … any commercial company – like a telecom or internet service provider, libraries, medical companies – holding data about anyone, any U.S. citizen or anyone else.

I followed up to make sure I understood what Binney was saying, asking whether the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was that the government could use any information as long as it came from a private company … foreign or domestic.  In other words, the government was using the antiquated, bogus legal argument that it was not acting “color of law” using governmental powers, and that it was private companies just doing their thing (which the government happened to order all of the private companies to collect and fork over).

Binney confirmed that this was correct.  This is what the phone company spying program and the Prism program – the government spying on big Internet companies – is based upon.  Since all digital communications go through private company networks, websites or other systems, the government just demands that all of the companies turn all of them over.

Let’s use an analogy to understand how bogus this interpretation of the Patriot Act is. This would be analogous to a Congressman hiring a hit man to shoot someone asking too many questions, and loaning him his gun to carry out the deed … and then later saying “I didn’t do it, it was that private citizen!” That wouldn’t pass the laugh test even at an unaccredited, web-based law school offered through a porn site.

I then asked the NSA veteran if the government’s claim that it is only spying on metadata – and not content – was correct.  We have extensively documented that the government is likely recording the content as well. (And the government has previously admitted to “accidentally” collecting more information on Americans than was legal.)

Binney said that was not true; the government is gathering everything, including content.

Binney explained – as he has many times before – that the government is storing everything, and creating a searchable database … to be used whenever it wants, for any purpose it wants when it wants to go after someone.

Binney said that former FBI counter-terrorism agent Tim Clemente is correct when he said that no digital data is safe (Clemente says that all digital communications are being recorded).  Binney gave me an idea of how powerful Narus recording systems are.  There are probably 18 of them around the country, and they can each record 10 gigabytes of data – the equivalent of a million and a quarter emails with 1,000 characters each – per second.

Binney next confirmed the statement of the author of the Patriot Act – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner – that the NSA spying programs violate that Act.  After all, the Patriot Act is focused on spying on external threats, not on Americans.

Binney asked rhetorically: “How can an American court [FISA or otherwise] tell telecom to cough up all domestic data?!”

Update: Binney sent the following clarifying email about content collection:

It’s clear to me that they are collecting most e-mail in full plus other text type data on the web.


As for phone calls, I don’t think they would record/transcribe the approximately 3 billion US-to-US calls every day. It’s more likely that they are recording and transcribing calls made by the 500,000 to 1,000,000 targets in the US and the world.

In other news, NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999

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Things that go bump's picture

The state is not a snake. It is a hydra. strike off one head and 2 grow in its place. 

ThisIsBob's picture

I think the government has everything.  Now if only it could lern how to spell.

Richard Whiskey's picture

One nation
Under surveillance

espirit's picture

with liberty and justice denied.

Hulk's picture

with pastries and american idol for all !!!

DaveyJones's picture

with liberty and justice inflated

11b40's picture

With liberty & justice for sale.

TheMerryPrankster's picture

With Liberty and Justice for some.

Kina's picture

So Obama is pretty much like the Prince of Lies.

Urban Redneck's picture

I never realized Terry Conklin's ring name was the Prince of Lies. 

TheMerryPrankster's picture

King of Lies, he's recently been promoted.

They are trying to find a crown that will fit over those big ears.

"My what big ears you have Uncle Sam!"

The better to listen in on your life my dear....

moneybots's picture

"We reported in 2008 that foreign companies have had key roles scooping up Americans’ communications for the NSA:"


I remember hearing a long time ago that in the U.S. and Britain it was illegal to spy on their own people.  Thus Britain would spy on Americans and U.S. would spy on Britains and hand over the information to the other, thus getting around the legality of the law.

Torture was supposed to be illegal.  So the government would outsource "interrogation" to Syria or some other country.  Why would the government send a prisoner to Syria for interrogation?  To be tortured, of coarse, while pretending that the government does not torture prisoners.  "They assured us they wouldn't be tortured."  There is a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

DaveyJones's picture

yup, except the criminal lawyer in me asks why is that not a criminal accomplice?, a conspiracy a...any number of things 

Joebloinvestor's picture

This is how Chas's conversation about how he wished he could be a Tampex was revealed.

Cultural Capital's picture


(Listen 11:30-17:20)


Joebloinvestor's picture

This is what i have been screaming about.

The NSA records all phone conversations.

The JD provides time, date and location and the NSA provides the conversation. 

This is why the AP and Rosen call info grab excuse that the "JD did not wire tap" is a load of bull shit.


Coast Watcher's picture

All communications have been monitored and recorded for decades. There were news articles in the early 1980s about a US/UK military program that monitored all phone conversations in Western Europe with voice-recognition software. It was installed on the Washington and NYC phone systems in the early '80s and has been expanded to other metro areas ever since. The software recognized key words or phrases and then records and traces the calls. I'm sure it has become far more sophisticated since then.

Urban Redneck's picture

It is more recent than the 1980's.  Digital Switching was necessary was necessary to transition from the ability to monitor and store any telephone communications to being able to monitor and store all telephone communications.   

Winston Churchill's picture

Sure has.

If you had seen The NSA installation at Chick Sands in the UK back in the 70's,

you would have been pretty dumb not to realise it then.Even looking over the fence

should have been enough.

What has changed is the cost of digital storage.Now they can save it all forever,that's

what is new..

Freddie's picture

You are probably talking about Echelon.  I think it also included Canada, Australia and New Zealand.



TheMerryPrankster's picture

Those were the active participants and received appropriate data for their countries in exchange for helping the USA/UK .

The listening posts in those nations were able to pickup USSR, Middle east and Asian traffic, which at that time due to the constraints of technology and the fact that a few NSA heads still were not comprimised corporatists, but instead were nationalist who beleived in constitutions and other archaic documents and concepts like truth and liberty, were not used much for domestic surviellance.

Of course it is documented when they wanted to do domestic, they just put extranationals in the operator console so they could technically say americans were not spying on americans.

Joebloinvestor's picture

The biggest "victim" of that being Chas wishing he was a Tampex.

imaginalis's picture

The Elite Stasi are just trying to protect us from bad guys. They are not looking to root out whistleblowers and dissenters

Bastiat's picture

SF Chronicle editorial today slams Obama on this.  Also 4 letters to the editor slamming Feinstein. A couple of them read like something from zh.

machineh's picture

After all those years in Washington, Feinstein resembles a bloated, hideously disfigured sucker fish, dredged up from the mercury-laden slime on the bottom of the Potomac.

Like Eva Braun, she's loyal to the Fuhrer.


TrustWho's picture

Sorry to disagree, Eva Braun never had scales and leather for skin.

Freddie's picture

The Nor Cal sillycon valley scum all suck off the govt teet.  Now their geeky technology has helped create the police state.  Nice job AH's.  We are so smart and hip.

Anyone know any good tools that might help block their shit like Hide My Ass.com?  Kim.com's mega is supposed to come up with an end to end encryption service for phones and the net.  There is a S African company that has cell phone encryption for $3 a month.

Al Gorerhythm's picture

Are you sure they haven't got a backroom deal going with the NSA?

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

+ a very, very big NSA-sized number

Nailed it Freddie.  How can such engineers, who are smart, be such dumb AHs...?

Winston Smith 2009's picture

Moved comment to its proper position in thread.

disabledvet's picture

Indeed. "tip of the iceberg." move along...

Widowmaker's picture

What else is Mr. Binney willing to disclose to his real boss, the people of the United States?

BattlegroundEurope2011's picture

Wired is just another mouthpiece of the NSA et al.


Ban KKiller's picture

Time for revolution. There i said it. Thomas Jefferson also said it. As George Washington....terrorists of their day...


Who the hell listens to all the total crap we talk and write about? Who do they think is the enemy? Americans? Yeah, right. The sheeple don't even know they are sheeple. 

NSA fuck you.

TSA fuck you.

Our "government" is gone. Was replaced years ago with FACISTS Bankers who crave control...to what end? Oh yeah, they WANT revolution so people are killed in mass and they, the FACISTS, can rebuild and own even more. 

Banksters LOVE war. Banksters crave war. This time we need to bring the fight to them. Like in their homes, their neighborhoods, their work place. When you create a whole class of people with nothing left to lose...revolution looks great! We are getting closer as they are directing us to revolt. Or just have another beer and do XBox.

Welder's picture

They're not "FACIST", they're Jews. Sionists.


i-dog's picture

Sionists and Jews are two separate things, fuckwit.

Some Jews are Sionists, and some Sionists are Jews. Some Christians are Sionists, and some Sionists are Christians. Some Mormons are Sionists, and some Sionists are Mormons. Catching on, yet?

The anti-Zionist Jews in Israel are just as persecuted by the Sabbatean-Khazarians as are the Palestinians, for example. Anti-Zionist politicians in the US are as unlikely to make it to a presidential ballot as is Donald Duck, for example.

Umh's picture

Some people just can't spell. The educational establishment has apparently failed you in many ways. From my point of view critical thinking is on the list too.

Widowmaker's picture

"This time we need to bring the fight to them. Like in their homes, their neighborhoods, their work place."

Like with the blade of truth and exposure?

Lumberjack's picture

Check out UPC Group/Liberty Global.

cherry picker's picture

Some bitch posted an article with my name and picture indicted and wanted under a RICCO warrant in Ohio some years back, conveniently neglecting to point out the party in the warrant has the same name but is 20 years younger than I.


I couldn't get it off her Google blog.


If that is th kind of shit NSA is collecting, I guess I may well be viewed as a "wise" guy with some powerful connections.  Sometimes I wonder to myself, if that is how the world is viewing me, why not become one?


The problem is, I like people, as screwed up as they are.

mofreedom's picture

NSA, FBI, IRS, EPA, et all put it there to falsely convict, or just harass you, make you...you name it!

Widowmaker's picture

Do no evil Widomakers fucking ass.  Nothing but the dirty work of the police state.

Since when was judicial due process oursourced to the interests of private enterprise?   Why is the government constructing and storing vast swaths of digital content and then playing it down to just a portal?

What is the ambiguous FISA court and why is there a secret court anywhere in America?

The USA is operating as a Consitutional hybrd, way outside the lines of the founding fathers' intent and purposes.   A secret terrorist justice system, isolated from the people in the USA with exception to a few political elitists is the signature move of Fascism.

TheMerryPrankster's picture

it all branched from the national security act of 1947 signed by Truman and the still secret directive 9 that created the NSA.

65 years to quench liberty and induce corporate fascism in the name of keeping you "safe'. Our fear is destroying us.

Grow a set of balls and realize on a long enough time line we are all dead.

Classifaction of documents has allowed the nefarious to commit their crimes in secret and with imputiny. no one goes to jail. no one is impeached nothing changes until the NSA.the cia are drawn and quartered.

they are not protecting you, they are destroying you and your way of life.

they are the anti-patriots

VelvetHog's picture

I am willing to bet that since the Government has all this data so do the big banks.

Al Gorerhythm's picture

And they are discussing how to use it right now in Watford, England.

TheMerryPrankster's picture

the government is the big banks

lunaticfringe's picture

That is an interesting point although, not sure if the bankers don't get relevant info the old fashioned way- by fucking you to death with credit reporting.

Dollar Bill Hiccup's picture

Very excited! My NEW OBAMA CAM has arrived by UPS.

Now they can SEE EVERYTHING I SEE, and even things which I don't realize I'm seeing.

Always thought that was a great trick in the MATRIX!