19:50 GMT02 March 2021
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    Slashing the budget of the National Security Agency is the most effective way to stop the agency from spying on US citizens, former NSA analyst turned whistleblower William Binney told Sputnik News.

    In the years since Edward Snowden exposed NSA surveillance activities, US legislators and privacy advocates have increasingly pushed back against the agency. The ACLU this week launched an online campaign under the hashtag #TakeCTRL, encouraging people to take control of their online data.

    Among the agency's outspoken critics is Binney. After 36 years with the NSA, he left the agency in October 2011, over opposition to domestic surveillance programs launched under the Bush administration in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

    In an interview with Sputnik News on Thursday, Binney said efforts by Congress to reign in the NSA have failed and will continue to fail. He said the agency has been "subverting the entire US judicial system."

    Binney said cutting the NSA budget would limit its resources and thereby force the agency to abandon its bulk collection of US citizens' metadata in favor of "things that are important."

    "I think a 25% cut to their budget is an appropriate place to start," Binney said. "Maybe that would get their attention and maybe they’ll start to pay attention to the Constitution."

    According to Binney, bulk collection has overwhelmed the agency with too much information, causing analysts to miss warning signs about impending attacks. Cutting the budget would narrow the agency’s scope, forcing analysts to focus on credible threats, he said.

    Binney said reforming the NSA from within was impossible because agency personnel were bound by a "Cheney blood oath" – in reference to a pact to keep surveillance programs secret under Bush administration Vice President Dick Cheney.

    On Wednesday, a bipartisan coalition of legislators from 16 states and Washington, DC, simultaneously announced legislation to boost privacy protections for students and employees, stop warrantless invasions of emails and text messages, and safeguard against location tracking.

    "These bills would go far in ensuring students, employees, and everyone else has more of a say over who can know their whereabouts, track their activities online, and view information they share with friends," said Chad Marlow, advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU, where he focuses on privacy and technology.

    As of Wednesday afternoon, an ACLU online petition to push for better privacy protections nationwide had approximately 10,760 signatures of the 15,000 the organization said it needed. 

    Tags:
    American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Security Agency (NSA), Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Edward Snowden, William Binney, US
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