WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Leandra Bernstein — The National Security Agency (NSA) should be defunded in order to reform it, NSA whistleblower William Binney told Sputnik.
“If you take away their money, they [NSA] can’t do what they are doing,” Binney said in a Friday interview. “If you don’t take away their money… they could continue doing anything they want, spying even on our government officials.”
The NSA has been at the center of controversy over its mass surveillance programs, both domestically and abroad. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the extent of NSA surveillance in a series of leaks in 2013.
The official intelligence budget is nearly $50 billion, according to US data. Binney estimates the classified intelligence budget amounts to approximately $100 billion and is not subject to a government audit.
“That is a setup for corruption and that is exactly what has been going on in the intelligence community: corruption, fraud and waste,” Binney asserted.
US officials who are not accountable to the public use security threats, particularly terrorism, “to keep the problem going so the money keeps flowing,” Binney stated.
“What they want is a never-ending problem so they can have a never-ending war and a never-ending flow of money,” he said.
In July 2013, the US House of Representatives attempted to defund the NSA’s bulk surveillance program. Ultimately, the bill fell short of passing by 12 votes.
Binney believes that the next major intelligence reform the US government should undertake is shutting down the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.
“The first thing I would do is get rid of the FISA court, force them to go through Article 3 [public] courts,” Binney said on Friday.
The FISA court grants orders approving electronic surveillance anywhere within the United States, according to the 1978 law that created it. US investigative journalists found that FISA had rejected fewer than one percent of all surveillance requests over 33 years.
Binney argued against the secret intelligence court stating, “You don’t do anything in secret. That is not a democracy.”
The new law will allegedly implement additional oversight to the secret FISA court by appointing a privacy advocate to the court. The advocate will be in charge of arguing against the government position, according to the USA Freedom Act.
The FISA court, the US intelligence community and their operations should be forced “out in the open," he said.
At present, the FISA court only hears government arguments, receives testimony and evidence from government or intelligence sources, and issues decisions that are not made public.
Under a secret FISA interpretation of US law after September 11, 2001, the NSA was allowed to issue general warrants to sweep up the communications data or metadata of virtually every US citizen. This mass surveillance program, Stellar Wind, was exposed in 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
William Binney worked as a crypto-mathematician at the NSA for 36 years. He resigned in 2001 and became a whistleblower after discovering that elements of a data-monitoring program he helped develop were being used to spy on US citizens.