In another astounding revelation about the extent of United States’ global surveillance operations, The Washington Post recently published a piece about a Swiss company, Crypto AG, that was actually owned by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and West Germany’s intelligence agency. Crypto AG provided encryption services to over a hundred governments worldwide for decades. Unbeknownst to those governments, the CIA had access to the encryption tools and could therefore read high-level internal governmental correspondence from countries including France, Egypt, Venezuela and many others.
On this week’s edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer speaks with William Binney, a leading intelligence expert who worked at the National Security Agency for 30 years, about this shocking information that is only now being made public, roughly two years after the program ended in 2018. In the exchange, Scheer highlights why the revelation is not only incredibly worrying in terms of the power it allowed the U.S. to wield for decades, but because of its historical implications.
“What it means, as I understand it, is that people high up in the U.S. government, right up through the president, would have known of every assassination attempt, every terrorist attempt, every torture, everything done in any of these other societies — as I say, be it Saudi Arabia, be it Egypt, be it Venezuela, be it Guatemala,” says an outraged Scheer.
“We had knowledge of what they were doing, what they were plotting,” he goes on, “aren’t we complicit in actually learning about what they’re doing — that they’re going to kill somebody or torture them — and not intervening, or deciding to ignore it?”
“I certainly would agree with that, what you’re saying there,” Binney responds. “They hold some responsibility for not taking action to stop events, yeah.”
When Scheer asks Binney to explain what’s at the foundation of the Crypto AG operation, the former NSA agent bluntly gets to the heart of the matter. “It’s a standard operation to try to get other people to buy the crypto systems that you’ve built,” Binney says, “because that means you fundamentally own them.”
This form of “ownership” is one NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the global public with his leaks about the extent of American surveillance on its own people, as well as on the leaders of our allies, such as Angela Merkel. To Binney, whose long career in U.S. intelligence provides him with unique insight into American surveillance operations, the story points to a larger issue with the way the U.S. views itself.
“[This idea America has about itself] comes from cowboy movies,” Binney says. “We were the guys that wore the white hats. We’re always right, and everybody else is wrong, and we’re doing right and they’re doing wrong.”
“It’s the hypocritical side of intelligence,” he later says, “looking at the Department of Justice and FBI and police enforcement, what spies are doing against us is bad, but what we do against everybody else is not, it’s good. Because we are the good guys. After all, we’ll try to keep the peace in the world. And in fact, we end up giving more, starting, getting involved in more wars than we can shake a stick at, and they seem to be never ending.
“We have a double standard on how we think; we have no real value system that’s governing everything,” he concludes, in a stark condemnation of U.S. government operations.
In the media player above, listen to the full discussion between Binney and Scheer, as they touch upon issues of privacy, diplomacy, American innocence and the valiant efforts of Snowden to unveil America’s massive surveillance apparatus to the world. You can also read a transcript of the interview below the credits.
Natasha Hakimi Zapata
Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case it’s William Binney, who was a code-breaking expert for the U.S. military before he joined the National Security Agency, where for over 30 years he worked on intelligence matters and ended up being the technical leader for intelligence.
And I’ve spoken to Mr. Binney before, but I’m particularly interested now because of a new story in The Washington Post, a great investigative story in which they joined with German sources, Swiss sources, and so forth. And it’s on an over 30-year-old program; it went until 2018, it goes back to 1970—maybe a longer program, almost a half-century program, even going back to after World War II. And it’s about a company called Crypto, Crypto AG. And this company ended up being owned by the CIA and West German intelligence, back in the days before Germany was united. And what they did was basically provide encryption tools, going back to the earlier tools before there was an internet, but ending up with very sophisticated programs, to allow governments that paid for this service—I believe it was about 123 governments of the world; that did not include China or the Soviet Union, because they were suspicious of the program.
But this Swiss-based company provided encryption, meaning that governments could keep their correspondence with their embassies and their security agencies from foreign eyes. And it was governments as varied as Egypt and Greece and Italy and France and so forth. And there’s a real question about whether this intelligence-gathering, which accounted for about half of the communications of all of these governments—it’s really so far-reaching, it almost defies subscription. And it seems to be an accurate—it’s based on a CIA report. So I thought, you know, who better to explain this to me than a veteran of the National Security Agency, which along with the CIA actually owned this company that was spying on every government, practically, in the world. So tell me what you know about it, William Binney.
William Binney: Well, Bob, I think it’s just that it’s a standard operation to try to get other people to buy the crypto systems that you’ve built. [Laughs] Because that means you fundamentally own them. So the basic principle with any country’s intelligence service that knows anything—ah, that’s probably primarily why the Russians and Chinese didn’t buy into this company—is that you never buy crypto material or crypto information from foreign countries. You invent it yourself and control all the knowledge of it within your country. Otherwise you’re not secure. It simply means that if you buy something from overseas, you’re exposing the basic communications that you have, and where you use it, to be read by the other countries that own that—in this case it was BND and the NSA, or CIA. So—
RS: Yeah, but they were lying about it. Wait a minute. This was ostensibly a private company which also was under contract with companies like Motorola in this country, and Siemens in Germany. And this was all deep secret stuff. And so these countries like Egypt, or anyone else in the world, didn’t know that this equipment that was encrypting their information was actually being done by foreign governments—by the CIA, the NSA on the U.S. side. And I bring it up because we’re making a big deal right now, the U.S. government, about the Chinese company Huawei being involved in the construction of the new 5G internet. And they say oh, well, the Chinese government gets access through them—in fact the U.S., through the CIA and NSA, and people on the highest level, always knew about this, actually set the standard for this intrusion on the security of the rest of the world.
WB: That’s correct. Yeah. And it’s been well known by countries who have smart intelligence agencies, that that’s a standard practice—that other intelligence agencies set up front companies, and these front companies—that’s why you have to be very careful where you get material information from. Because you’re setting yourself up to be bringing in the tapping points from other countries. In other words, if you import material from them by switches, or you know, servers, any kind of crypto material or anything like that, you’re embedding that in your system, making your system their system. And that’s why they talk about the Huawei 5G stuff, because that’s an embedding of the Chinese system in ours, and it then gives them that access—same thing that we’ve been doing for decades, and in this program for more than 50 years.
RS: Yeah. And in this program, though, as The Washington Post points out, it almost defies comprehension. Because what we’re talking about, in their description—and this is all based on an internal CIA report, as well as a German intelligence report—the systems that they were put in were designed for the CIA, NSA, through this company Crypto to enter—right?—the system, to decode them, to read the material—they were designed to be easily penetrated by U.S. intelligence. And this means that the U.S. government on the highest level had knowledge of every assassination—they used that as examples—that, say, Latin American dictators ordered. Things that were being done throughout the world to oppress people, to torture them, to kill them, to overthrow other governments. All of this was known in real time, at the highest level of the U.S. government. And you’re kind of taking it to be less exciting or important than I am suggesting. I think this is—
WB: Oh, no. No, no, Bob, I’m not—I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that the practice of doing this, setting up front companies like that, by CIA and BND—this is what they—you should have changed the Crypto name to CIA/BND. That’s what they should have—that was really what they were buying material from, they were buying it from that joint effort of those two intelligence agencies. That’s a standard intelligence practice and has been, you know, since at least World War II. So you know, that’s nothing new on the intelligence side. So you know, maybe it’s a surprise to a lot of reporters in The Washington Post, but in the intelligence community, that’s standard practice.
There’s another point that I don’t think they emphasized enough, and it’s really much more important than any of the other ones, simply because any communications between the companies that realized you don’t do this—you don’t buy crypto material from foreign countries, or companies in foreign countries; you control that process yourself—those countries, like Russia and China, their thinking and their relationships are also compromised. Because anybody who was using these devices, communicating through their embassies with the Chinese or the Russians, and getting responses for them, we wouldn’t be able to read, like, one-half of the communications between them, and therefore deduce the kinds of thinking and the processes that were going on in China and Russia also. So it had much greater impact in terms of that than anything else, I think.
RS: No, but I mean—all right, I want to get—you’re making it sound routine, but you lived your life inside of the NSA and—
WB: Yeah, for us in the business, that’s routine.
RS: Yeah, but what I’m saying is the average American does not know that for 50 years, our government was spying on allies—on others, on virtually every government in the world. And you know, we were shocked when Edward Snowden revealed that Angela Merkel in Germany had her phone surveilled by the agency that you worked for. But this seems to me an admission of far more extensive spying on virtually every government in the world—except, ironically, China or Russia, who were so suspicious they had their own encryption means. But the fact is, you know, Bobby Ray Inman, you worked for him, didn’t you, at the NSA? Or was that the CIA?
WB: Yeah, he was the director there for a while while I was there, yeah.
RS: Yeah. And he brags about it; he says this was the greatest coup of all. But what it means, as I understand it, is that people high up in the U.S. government, right up through the president, would have known of every assassination attempt, every terrorist attempt, every torture, everything done in any of these other societies—as I say, be it Saudi Arabia, be it Egypt, be it Venezuela, be it Guatemala. We had knowledge of what they were doing, what they were plotting. Aren’t we then complicit not only in creating a standard of surveillance of every country in the world, and their data and their activities—then we bemoan when others do it. But also, aren’t we complicit in actually learning about what they’re doing—that they’re going to kill somebody or torture them—and not intervening, or deciding to ignore it?
WB: I certainly would agree with that, what you’re saying there, Bob, yeah. They hold some responsibility for not taking action to stop events, yeah.
RS: But we’re talking about just about every major nefarious event that has happened in, as I say, almost a half-century. Just, you know, it petered out at the end, but it was still going at 2018. And—
WB: Yeah, I think you’re right, they probably had knowledge of most of them. I don’t know what percentage, you know; it would be dependent on the coverage of collection of data to be able to decrypt it and read what they were saying, you know.
RS: Yeah. Well, the estimate in The Washington Post was, I think, as high as 50% of these communications, OK. So that means—well, for one example, for instance, when Sadat and Jimmy Carter were negotiating a peace agreement, Jimmy Carter had all of the conversations that Sadat was having with his own government, with his own government’s agencies—that was all made available to Jimmy Carter. And Anwar Sadat, the head of Egypt, didn’t know that. So he was negotiating with the American president, and the American president had all of this information, because they were able to tap in—right?—to all of their diplomatic and intelligence communications, or at least 50% of it. Doesn’t this sort of mock—I just want to—yeah?
WB: I agree with you, Bob. Yeah.
RS: Well— [Laughs]
WB: That’s really—see, what it gets down to is the intelligence community, what they were—I’m sure what they were doing back then was, if they said—well, like for example President Carter. If there was any knowledge of an assassination coming up, and if they told him, you know, he would, like, probably give a—he might have a high-percentage chance that he would compromise it openly in the public. Like, for example, I think President Reagan did make some comment at some time in his presidency where he fundamentally let the cat out of the bag. So they were probably arguing that we needed to make sure and emphasize that nobody says anything publicly, and that they needed to caution even the president if they had knowledge of that and told him about it. So—which I’m sure they did.
RS: Well, and this involved blowing up buildings and killing people, and arresting people and torturing, and going to war and lying about it, and everything else. There’s this tremendous amount of information. I wonder how much would people on the intelligence committees of the House or the Senate—people like Dianne Feinstein or Adam Schiff, for instance, on the House side, for the democrats and the republicans—how much of this would they have known? Were they in the dark about this? That’s not made clear in The Washington Post report.
WB: Ah, no, what it would do would be, it would be coming out under Gamma reporting. That would be the reports that we issued from NSA, and those would—like the case of Hillary Clinton, had some of that on her server and she took some of the extracts out of Gamma reports. Which didn’t tell them, it doesn’t tell the customer—which they look at Congress as a customer—it doesn’t tell them exactly how they got the information. It just says this is sensitive information from sensitive programs that are in operation in the NSA or CIA, whichever it is. So they would at least know that it had a degree of reliability from that Gamma type reporting.
RS: So they would know that we were tapping into, say, Anwar Sadat’s communication with his government, his own government—with his embassy, with his armed forces. But they wouldn’t know the specifics of how that was gathered; they would be given the information. And as oversight agencies, who after all are branches of Congress who are supposed to be providing oversight—certainly after the seventies, the Church Committee report, that’s what the Senate Intelligence Committee was supposed to be doing. They were the ones, then, that should have known that there was this spying on all of our—I want to make this clear—on our allies. Not just supposed enemies, on our allies. And wouldn’t they have thought that was a violation of norms of international law, of decency, of respect for others? Or was that just routine?
WB: Ah, also most likely treaties in between the countries involved. So you know, it’s like if I’m putting something here in your country, you don’t spy on me, and if I put something in your country I don’t spy on you. That’s kind of—in treaty agreements between countries, when they have relationships set up, yeah. I would also say that, you know, that compared to what’s going on today, that’s—you know, that’s a drop in the bucket. They’re just spying on fundamentally every U.S. citizen—you, me, everybody. They’re getting copies of this radio program you’re broadcasting.
So you know, this is just a mess we’re in. I mean, we have created—these intelligence agencies fundamentally are not controllable by any government in the world. Their own agencies they can’t control. I mean, look at how much control they have over at CIA, or FBI or DOJ or the NSA, when they try to run a soft coup against President Trump. Or you know, or any of the other countries around the world—they have similar inadequacy in terms of oversight. I mean, their oversight’s a joke, really; worldwide, it’s just a joke. They just have absolutely no control over any of these intelligence agencies. They’ll go do whatever they want, once they close that secret door, you’re out. And the only thing that Congress does, when they call it ”oversight,” they send their staffers up to NSA or down to CIA or wherever, DIA, whatever agency they go to, and they get briefed by a set of briefers that have cleared their briefings through the liaison offices, with the congressional liaison offices, you know. And that’s the story that that agency wants to tell Congress, and that’s the story that Congress gets, and they don’t have anything else to judge it by. And they won’t tell them.
RS: So let me just understand this. I hope you’re not getting blasé about all this. But—
WB: No, I’m still rather pissed off about it, if you ask me.
RS: But I—well, I mean, you know, people—there hasn’t been that much response to The Washington Post story. That was really what surprised me. You know, I thought this would be really huge. I mean, you have a sort of—I mean here we have, at the very same time they’re making a big deal—I said it before, you know, can you trust a Chinese internet company to be constructing—and in The Washington Post report they have Motorola and Siemens, the German company, which is one of the biggest in the world. And they’re just in there with this company called Crypto, refining their system. So they were in on, or had to be in on, the fact that they were surveilling governments like Italy—you know, governments all over the world, some of which we claim to be close allies of. I think it was 123 governments around the world. No one blew the whistle.
And in The Washington Post story, it’s very interesting, they say that when Edward Snowden revealed the extent of NSA surveillance and spying and so forth, there was real shock at the dimension. But actually this story shows that Snowden’s revelation only captured part of it. You know, he showed some of the surveillance of foreign governments and leaders; as I say, a case in Brazil, Germany, and what have you. But according to this Washington Post report, this was routine for most of a half century. Just routinely spying on every leader anywhere in the world, whether they were considered democrats or dictators or communists or fascists or what have you. All of their most private information was made available to the U.S. national security agencies, and presumably some of the people they briefed. And it’s far more extensive than what Snowden revealed.
WB: Actually, I wouldn’t say that, Bob. Because there’s one side that showed the worldwide access points to the Five Eyes that Snowden put on the web, that showed in there, one of the entries at the bottom with the little dots designating where they were occurring all over the map. So it showed the different points that were embedded with implants. And in there, this computer network exploitation, CNE part of it, says that it had greater than 50,000 implants in the world. Now, one of these little implants for crypto recovery or crypto reading of anybody’s communication could be one implant. So you can maybe have a dozen implants for a country, and you can cover, basically, its governmental communications. Something like that, depending on the size of the government, you know.
RS: Yeah, but you’re the expert. You were the head of technical expert—I forgot the title, but you know—
WB: Technical director. [Laughs]
RS: You were the technical director for intelligence worldwide at one point. But most of us looking at that chart—many people never looked at that chart; I looked at it. And I really didn’t know what those dots were until I read The Washington Post report, I guess. And however they got that information, it showed up as one of those dots. But as I say, yes, you could not ignore Snowden, and The Washington Post report makes that very clear. But this shows that it was far more invasive—you would have thought, well, they’re going into Egypt or Greece to find some bad actors or some terrorists, or you know, some people who are against that government. No—they were going in to find what the heads of Italy, or any other country, were saying to their own ambassadors, to their own people, their own advisors, their own defense ministers. So it’s not just like looking for some bad actors, some terrorists. The U.S. government—
WB: No, and it also had the side benefit, Bob—I’m just trying to point out—of giving you one side of the access into Russia and China, with Russia and China responding to different countries around the world. You can at least see the one side of the conversation, so you can begin to understand what the Chinese were saying to them or the Russians were saying to them. So it gave them—it basically was compromising that, too. So you actually could get in that way indirectly. You know, so you’re not going directly at the Chinese encrypted communication or the Russians’ encrypted communication, but you’re going at things that you can break.
I’ll give an example. In World War II, before the invasion of France, the Japanese ambassador to Germany was given a tour of the wall, the defensive wall from France all the way up to Norway. All the positions and all of that. He dutifully reported that back to the Japanese government, and he used the Japanese code system to do it, and that was one of the code systems we were reading. So when we read that, we got the entire layout of the defense positions of the German army in Europe. So that helped in the invasion, OK. That’s the kind of information you could get indirectly, having an access point like that.
RS: OK, but just for people who didn’t read The Washington Post story—and it’s not getting the publicity that I want—let me just give one example. There was England at war over the Falklands with Argentina. Now, Argentina was not thought to be a terrorist adversary of the United States. It was an adversary with England over the Falklands, OK. And your agency that you worked for, the National Security Agency, and the CIA, were in control of a company that was able to get all of the details of what the Argentine military and government was doing, what they were saying, and then handed that over to the English.
That’s in the report. That’s a degree of intrusion, you know, of surveillance, of even ostensibly friendly or neutral governments, that is absolutely startling. And as I say, with it comes some ownership or responsibility. If you’re also plugging in to dictators and learning they are going to do nefarious things, but you don’t warn the people who are going to be assassinated or tortured or what have you, because that will compromise your access, right? And so we have actually been complicit in many of these crimes.
WB: That’s correct. If you have knowledge and don’t take action, you’re complicit.
RS: So what I’m saying is—and again, you’re a professional, and you’re a cool customer here. And I’m this guy who’s read this report, and I’m just thinking, why isn’t this more shocking to people? That’s, I guess, my basic question. Are we so inured to this sort of thing that we say, well, if the U.S. government does it, it’s OK, it must make sense; but if anybody else does anything even the slightest bit like this, oh, we think it’s just terrible? Isn’t that where we are?
WB: Yes, it is, Bob. And it comes from the basic, you know, cowboy movies. We were the guys that wore the white hats. Yeah, we’re always right, and everybody else is wrong, and we’re doing right and they’re doing wrong.
RS: So your agency that you were at—and they say most of the people at the NSA didn’t really know about this particular company, Crypto AG, right?
WB: That’s correct.
RS: That was a deeply held secret, right? And in fact, people who worked for that company, one of whom was arrested in Iran, they thought they were just innocent contractors selling good encryption material around the world. And then when Iran—yeah, go ahead.
WB: Yeah. You hit it right on the head, that’s exactly right. What you do is you use people who don’t know what’s really happening, and let them be the ones to spread the word, so to speak, and spread the capability around. And that’s exactly what they did with this program. And only a very few people, I’m sure—the ones they had to have were the ones in control of the ultimate technology that got produced and sold. Once you had control of that, and kept the knowledge of it to a very close few people, then the rest of them in the company wouldn’t know. In fact, they wouldn’t even know who owned the company, which obviously, I’m sure most of them didn’t—or any affiliated companies, they wouldn’t even know who owned those companies either.
RS: No, this was—
WB: You know, and they—I’m sorry?
RS: Yeah, this was a deeply held secret. So in other words, this was a Swiss company that was pretending to be privately owned and responsible to its shareholders or what have you, and in fact was owned by the NSA and CIA, and a West German, a German intelligence agency. And I just want to read from The Washington Post story, it said—
WB: But if I could insert something here, Bob, I would never call it a Swiss company. It was a CIA/BND front company located in Switzerland.
RS: Yes. Well, that’s fair. So it says here in The Washington Post, ”Even so”—you know, because we’re not doing it now, and it ended in 2018, which is hardly ancient history. It says ”Even so, the Crypto operation is relevant to modern espionage. Its reach and duration help to explain how the United States developed an insatiable appetite for global surveillance that was exposed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. There are also echoes of Crypto in the suspicions swirling around modern companies with alleged links to foreign governments, including the Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky, a texting app tied to the United Arab Emirates and the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.” So what’s so odd here is we have blasted a Russian company, we blast a Chinese company, we say you can’t trust their technology, they will build in ways of getting all that information. And yet the U.S. government, through the CIA/NSA, for half a century, set the gold standard for surveilling other governments and destroying their secrecy, right?
RS: So it’s hypocrisy. I don’t know—
WB: Yes it is, yeah. Well, and that’s the spying business.
RS: OK. I’ll just say, The Washington Post’s story says, quote, again, ”It is hard to overstate how extraordinary the CIA and BND histories are.” The BND is the German history. I mean, that’s a pretty strong statement, it’s hard to overestimate, right? It says here, you know, ”Sensitive intelligence files are periodically declassified and released to the public. But it is exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented, to glimpse authoritative internal histories”—this is the CIA—”of an entire covert operation.”
And it says, ”The Post was able to read all of the documents, but the source of the material insisted that only excerpts be published.” But so this is—again, I want to be moderate and reasoned in my evaluation—I don’t know why this isn’t being made into a bigger story. You know—here, this is another thing they said: ”The papers”—because they were internal documents, you know, both written by the CIA and by German intelligence. It says, ”The papers largely avoid more unsettling questions, including what the United States knew — and what it did or didn’t do — about countries that used Crypto machines while engaged in assassination plots, ethnic cleansing campaigns and human rights abuses. The revelations in the documents may provide reason to revisit whether the United States was in position to intervene in, or at least expose, international atrocities, and whether it opted against doing so at times to preserve its access to valuable streams of intelligence.” So we’re talking about deep corruption in the deep state, deep immorality in the deep state.
WB: I agree. Yeah. Like, my policy pretty much within intelligence—like for example, if I was there—I wasn’t in a position to do this, but if I had been there and I saw some of the material coming through in NSA, that would have tipped off that the attack was coming, and that certain people were involved, like those that came into San Diego and later, coordinated with others throughout the country and then collectively moved to takeoff points for the offensive on 9/11, to the hotels and airports adjacent to the airports they took off from.
Why, the first people I would have called would have been the FBI, and I’d just call them on the encrypted phone and say, I’ve got this knowledge, you need to do something about this. And tell them who it was, where it was, and how many there were, you know. And I would have just done that, if I couldn’t get a report out. So, that’s me, though. I’m, you know, other people might not have done that. But I would.
RS: But if the U.S. government didn’t do anything about it, then they’re complicit.
WB: That’s correct. I absolutely agree.
RS: OK. So just, you know, before we wrap this up, I just want people to understand this is not Bill Binney and Robert Scheer fantasizing about something. This is, The Washington Post has obtained—
WB: No, it’s real, yeah.
RS: Yeah, they’ve attained the actual studies—
WB: Any intelligence agent, we would classify this as a black program, or a SAP, a special access program. Where only the, you know, the person is obligated only to go to at least the Gang of Eight, the ranking senior and ranking members of House and Senate, and also the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. That’s the Gang of Eight. And they didn’t have to notify anybody else beyond that.
RS: Yeah. And so it says here, again, quoting from The Washington Post analysis of this, ”From 1970 on”—that’s a good chunk, OK?—That’s the half-century. ”From 1970 on, the CIA and its code-breaking sibling, the National Security Agency”—where Bill Binney, who I’m talking to, worked for 30 years—the CIA and the National Security Agency controlled—this is The Washington Post saying this—”controlled nearly every aspect of Crypto’s operations — presiding with their German partners over hiring decisions, designing its technology, sabotaging its algorithms and directing its sales targets.” OK.
So when we say you can’t trust a Chinese company like Huawei, because they might have some ties with their government even though they are privately owned—well, who are we kidding? We had made this the norm for almost every product sold about encryption to almost every country in the world. And then with a straight face, you say trust an American product but not a Chinese product in building the 5G network, because the Chinese sabotage their machines—and the U.S. government sabotaged every one of these encryption machines that they wanted to listen to? Hello?
WB: Yeah. I mean, you know, hey, let’s take the case of the Mueller report charging the GRU agents, you know, who were supposed to be spies. So he was charging spies for being spies. And I said well, you know, the reciprocal relationship could also occur; that means that that’s—we’re going to do that; then the rest of the countries in the world should charge our spies and NSA and CIA, all of them for being spies, you know. In the same way, in the same vein, for the same reasons.
RS: Yeah. So what is going on? Have we just gotten used, we accept as normal—
WB: Yeah, this—yeah, to me, Bob, this is what—this is what countries get, what people get in the countries, once they say ”take care of me” to their government. Once you say that, and you don’t follow what your government’s doing—I mean, the reason we have a Second Amendment is to protect ourselves against our government, not a foreign one. So our founding fathers didn’t trust our own government, so why should we? But instead, what are we doing? We’re trusting them blindly, saying you know, save us, you know, take care of us. You know, don’t make me think about things that are bad, you know; I just don’t want to deal with it, you deal with it. You know, that’s what it is, and we’re leaving that all up to our government without having any effective way of oversight or validation of anything that they’re telling us. I mean, look at how many times Clapper and Alexander and all the intelligence people were in front of Congress testifying under oath and lying! You know, and getting caught at it! So, you know, that’s what we get for letting this happen. We as a country, and we as a people.
RS: So let’s have a final word, then, about Edward Snowden and his role. Because you know, again, if Edward Snowden had not shown the volume—the volume of the spying that your agency did, right? People always—huh?
WB: I invented it for them, too.
RS: Yeah. And—
WB: [Laughs] And I’m not proud of that, Bob. That’s why I speak out against it.
RS: Yeah. But I just want to cut to the chase here, because you know, right now we have a case where people, a lot of people on the liberal side don’t like Donald Trump. And there’s a lot, I would argue, not to like about Donald Trump—but there’s a Trumpwashing. You know, it’s as if everything bad started with this guy. And you know, and so if you’re against him, that lets you off the hook. You’re a good liberal, you’re a good civil libertarian, because you know, you’re arguing that he’s worse. And we’re talking about a program here that was conducted under democrats and republicans. And a program—and again, I don’t want to be lost in the weeds here. You know, because we deal a lot with this notion of American innocence: if we do it, it may be a mistake, it may be an error, but it’s in a good cause. And here is a case where every American president, certainly since 1970, knew or was informed on some level—is that a fair statement? Would they have had to know about this? Hello?
WB: Yes, that’s exactly right.
RS: OK. So every American, go look it up who the presidents were, but every American president since 1970. And certainly Jimmy Carter, a guy I happen to like, and interviewed, and respect in many ways, certainly as an ex-president. But Jimmy Carter was one of them. Every one of those presidents, not just, you know, Richard Nixon—Ford, right, go up through the whole list. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and of course the first President Bush and the second President Bush, and Bill Clinton.
Go right through the whole list. All of them knew that when they were saying hello to the leader of almost any country in the world, that that leader did not know that their most private conversations had been made available to that American president. Talk about duplicitous. And I mean, again, Carter and Sadat—that Carter, sitting there, knew that the people briefing him from the CIA and the NSA had access to every bit of communication—or at least 50% of it, by this account—that he was sending back to his own government, his own intelligence, his own military, his own negotiators, his own diplomats. And that was taken by every American president, democrat or republican, to be the norm. That you get to spy on every other government’s most private, secret material. But if they do it to you, they become outlaw states. Isn’t that the story here?
WB: Yeah, it’s the hypocritical side of intelligence, yeah. And the flip side of it, looking at the Department of Justice and FBI and police enforcement, that what spies are doing against us is bad, but what we do against everybody else is not, it’s good. Because we are the good guys. After all, we’ll try to keep the peace in the world. And in fact, we end up giving more, starting, getting involved in more wars than we can shake a stick at, and they seem to be never ending. I mean, that’s the problem. Yep. We have a double standard on how we think; we have no real value system that’s governing everything.
RS: Well, that’s what Bobby Ray Inman, who was deputy director of the CIA in the late 1970s and early eighties, and served as director of the NSA, your agency—he was asked, do I have qualms? He said: zero. It was a very valuable source of communications, and that was it. You know, so it really goes—and then you know, I have one last point to just throw in here. People doing this, selling this equipment, installing it—when they got arrested, as in the case of this fellow in prison in Iran, our government said oh, you know, no, that has nothing—he wasn’t a spy. This guy didn’t know. He didn’t know that he was working for the CIA. He didn’t know. Yeah, he thought he was—or for the NSA. He thought he was working for a Swiss-based company that was selling encryption machines, material. And then, so when he got arrested, people all over the world said, well, that’s a terrible government. They arrested this guy, he wasn’t a spy. But he was unwittingly a spy.
And we did that to hundreds and hundreds of people. The Washington Post points out, there’s a lot of angry people who work for this company that the CIA owned. And they feel they were set up. They thought they were making machines that were good. And they didn’t know they were selling a machine that had been sabotaged to do the opposite of what people were paying for, which was to make all of their protected information instantly available to the U.S. CIA and NSA. And when others do it to us, we cry foul, but we think we have a birthright—a birthright to do that.
WB: Like I say, Bob, we wear the white hats. That’s the way people look at it.
RS: We wear the white hats. But you know, as journalists—I’m a journalist, and I really want to applaud The Washington Post. I’m not one of those who’s happy that billionaires are saving journalism, whether it be the L.A. Times or The Washington Post. I’m critical of that as a model of a free press. However, I have to admit in this case, as with the Afghanistan papers, in this case the people working there, the journalists, are still doing some really, really important journalism. So my hat’s off to them.
And, you know, let me just give a shout out, and I don’t know if I’ll ever do that anytime soon, to Jeff Bezos. Because he didn’t stop this from being published. The sad fact is, however, that this report in The Washington Post, and internationally in different papers that are outlets that work with The Washington Post, really has not gotten the attention it deserves. And I would hope that people would now, after listening to this, check it out. So thank you again, William Binney, for being an independent source of information about a very secret world that you helped create, and now sound the alarm about. Take care.
WB: Thanks, Bob.