There’s An Easy Technical Fix To A Good Chunk of Our Spy Problems
Bill Binney is the high-level NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information. A 32-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency, Binney was the senior technical director within the agency and managed thousands of NSA employees.
Binney knows how to rein in NSA spying …
Specifically, Binney and his team – including NSA veterans Thomas Drake and Kurt Wiebe – created a system which automatically encrypts all information about Americans.
That information can only be read (i.e. decrypted) if a judge orders it to be decrypted after a finding that there is probable cause that the target is a bad guy.
In other words, the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted.
This protected American citizens’ constitutional rights. Specifically, no unreasonable search and seizure or violation of our rights of association or speech. Unless a judge issues a search warrant, people’s privacy remains intact.
Protecting Americans’ Constitutional Rights
But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information.
Binney says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format (the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes.)
Because the NSA collects all of our raw information in unencrypted form, our constitutional right to avoid unreasonable searches and seizures – and to be able to speak freely and associate with who we wish – are being DESTROYED
By reinstating Binney’s system of automatic encryption, Americans’ privacy rights will be restored.
Binney told Washington’s Blog:
A Thinthread [the name of Binney’s encrypted system] type collection system up front would not even take in all the data about individuals unless they were close to a group of bad guys in the social network. This would remove most of the concern on constitutional and legal grounds.
There are some good pieces of legislation being proposed by Congress to rein in runaway NSA spying. But it is difficult to draft laws which remove all of the loopholes …and most laws contain loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.
In addition, creative but unethical people will always try to find a way around new laws.
By requiring automatic encryption of all Americans’ data – subject to decryption only with a search warrant issued by a federal judge – a mechanism and procedure will be established which removes a lot of room for mischief.
Automatically encrypting the data would place the cookie jar on the top shelf … out of reach of immature hands.
NSA Data Vulnerable to Foreign Hackers
Implementing Binney’s system of automatic encryption would solve another giant problem …
Specifically, top internet security experts say that the NSA’s current spying system makes the Internet less secure, less safe … and more vulnerable to hackers and bad guys.
The NSA’s big data collection itself creates an easy mark for hackers. And the Pentagon itself sees the collection of “big data” as a “national security threat” … but the NSA is the biggest data collector on the planet, and thus provides a tempting mother lode of information for foreign hackers.
Given that Americans’ sensitive, confidential information is lying around the NSA’s computers unencrypted, China, Russia or other actors can grab it. Indeed, leaving it unencrypted is like waiving a red flag for bad guys to get it.
(Sure, the NSA has firewalls and such. But its computer systems are not as bullet-proof as one might assume, and hackers have successfully penetrated Department of Defense, Federal Reserve and many other supposedly secure systems).
Binney confirmed to us that automatically encrypting data would also help protect it from being easily hacked by non-U.S. actors:
When done properly, encryption would give even the Chinese and Russians difficulty.
He also explained that the NSA is overly-confident about the security of its own systems:
One of the arguments NSA would make is that they have a closed and continuously encrypted network world-wide. Which they would argue would protect them from hackers. However, even they don’t know that that is true for sure. They do not have good documentation of their network and therefore can not assure everyone that the “Network” is truly isolated and secure.
Indeed, this is a matter of national security. Automatically encrypting Americans’ private data will make it harder for foreigners to access the data.
For all of the above reasons, encrypting Americans’ data must be central to NSA reform efforts.