Former high-level National Security Agency intelligence official William Binney spoke to a crowd of about 80 people June 3 at Bent Creek Golf Club in Eden Prairie.
Binney was joined by a panel that included Todd Pierce, a retired U.S. Army judge advocate general corps officer, cryptographer Christopher Burg and moderator Tony Styles to discuss the controversies surrounding the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance.
“I’m kind of semi-responsible for giving them the capability of what they’re doing today,” Binney said. “Which is why I’m fighting so hard.”
Binney worked for the agency for 30 years but retired from the NSA in 2001 when the programs were introduced.
“I knew it was illegal from day one,” Binney said.
Sponsored by groups such as StandUporTruth.org, LPMN CD 5 Affiliate, Blue Republicans, Libertarian Party of Minnesota, AgoraFest 2015 and the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance, the event drew a crowd from all over the metro area.
In 2002, Binney and others filed a complaint with the Department of Defense over what they viewed as wasteful and illegal surveillance technology. Then, on July 26, 2007, the FBI raided Binney’s home.
“They decided we needed to be stepped on, so they sent 12 agents simultaneously,” Binney said. “They pointed guns at my son and my wife. I had been cooperating for three months.”
Binney said he received a letter of immunity from the Department of Justice in 2010 after three failed attempts to charge him with something.
“I had exculpatory evidence,” Binney said.
Binney began telling his story to journalists two years before the revelations of NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
When asked about Snowden, Binney said that he should be indicted.
“But, the law should be applied equally, meaning that all those who were involved should be indicted – Bush, Cheney, Obama,” Binney said. “Snowden did steal materials, but the others are committing treason.”
On June 2, just one day before the discussion, Congress imposed the greatest limits on the government’s surveillance power in more than 30 years by introducing the USA Freedom Act. The legislation aims to bring more accountability for the secret court that grants spying powers, and it restricts the NSA’s data collection from telephone companies.
While Binney said it was a step in the right direction, he feels that the legislation is not enough.
“We have to get the lying, secret courts out of the way, […] and we need to put the criminals in jail,” Binney said.
Contact Michelle Doeden at [email protected]