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‘Everyone in US under virtual surveillance;’ Are you sure you have nothing to hide?

Dec 05, 20125 mins
Data and Information SecurityData CenterMicrosoft

NSA whistleblower William Binney claims you are under surveillance, everyone is, and all your info is stored in a databse indefinitely. You can be looked up at anytime and all your data analyzed, so are you sure you have nothing to hide?

“NSA Whistleblower: Everyone in US under virtual surveillance, all info stored, no matter the post,” reported RT after interviewing William Binney. RT said this is being done under the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” which is probably better known as NSA warrantless wiretapping. But Binney also named and blamed the FBI this time:

The FBI has access to the data collected, which is basically the emails of virtually everybody in the country. And the FBI has access to it. All the congressional members are on the surveillance too, no one is excluded. They are all included. So, yes, this can happen to anyone. If they become a target for whatever reason – they are targeted by the government, the government can go in, or the FBI, or other agencies of the government, they can go into their database, pull all that data collected on them over the years, and we analyze it all. So, we have to actively analyze everything they’ve done for the last 10 years at least.

Yes, we’ve heard versions of these claims before: See Whistleblower Binney says the NSA has dossiers on nearly every US citizen and NSA Whistleblower Drake: You’re automatically suspicious until proven otherwise. At Def Con, Dark Tangent, aka Jeff Moss now with the Homeland Security Advisory Council, flat-out asked NSA Chief General Keith Alexander, “So does the NSA really keep a file on everyone, and if so, how can I see mine?” Alexander replied, “No, we don’t. Absolutely not. Anybody who tells you we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people knows that’s not true.”

Binney then claimed the NSA Chief was being deceptive by playing word games. “Although Alexander was ‘technically’ accurate, Binney said, ‘This thing about not keeping track of every American is absolutely true. They missed a few. That’s the kind of word game they play. I’ve been in that business for a long time’.”

But according to the newest interview transcript, when asked about people who say they don’t care about this surveillance or collection because they are not doing anything wrong and have nothing to hide, Binney said:

The problem is if they think they are not doing anything that’s wrong, they don’t get to define that. The central government does, the central government defines what is right and wrong and whether or not they target you. So, it’s not up to the individuals. Even if they think they aren’t doing something wrong, if their position on something is against what the administration has, then they could easily become a target.

It is this long term storage that is the heart the problem of the many ridiculous “you might be a domestic terrorist if” lists. Just because something is legal and an innocent behavior now, doesn’t mean it still will be in a month, or a in year, or 10 years from now.  Maybe by then, voicing your opinion that civil liberties are under fire could be a suspicious activity; and the government could find this by looking up your digital existence in their ‘secret’ databases. It might even be illegal because we don’t know all the laws. Apparently no one does.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, in the 1980s, the Justice Department went through over the 27,000 pages “sprinkled” with federal code, trying to count the number of federal criminal offenses. In the end, a DOJ spokeswoman estimated there are about 3,000 before adding, “There was no quantifiable number.” Regarding overcriminalization, said, “No citizen is expected to know from memory the more than 4,450 federal statutory crimes and tens of thousands of offenses specified by federal regulations.”

The laws are “so extensive and complicated that the authorities do not have much trouble finding something to charge a person with, once that suspect comes into their cross hairs,” the ACLU explained. Furthermore “prosecutors and the police have a lot of discretion to interpret those laws,” the ACLU wrote in Plenty to Hide. “And if they decide to declare you public enemy #1, and they have the ability to go through your life with a fine-tooth comb because your privacy has been destroyed, they will find something you’ll wish you could hide.”

If you apply this to your email or other electronic communications that Binney says is being stored, then an example of an obscure law that could land you in prison would be the “unauthorized use of the slogan ‘Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute’.” As the ACLU said, “So the next time someone tells you they don’t care about surveillance because they haven’t done anything wrong, you should say: are you sure?”

Binney was a recipient of the annual Callaway award. Pogo Was Right explained that the award recognizes individuals “who champion constitutional rights and American values at great risk to their personal or professional lives.”

Here is the RT video interview with Binney:

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.