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GCHQ mass spying simply won't work warns ex-NSA director

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January 6, 2016

Current proposed plans by Britain's conservative government to legitimize the mass surveillance of the country's citizens simply won't work and will cause lives to be lost to terrorism.

That's the assesment of a former senior U.S. National Security Agency staffer, who will sound off on blanket snooping at a parliamentary hearing today.

William Binney, the former technical director of the NSA's Analytic Services Office, will give evidence before the Investigatory Powers Bill committee, which is scrutinizing proposals to grant fresh spying powers to various British agencies.

He will tell MPs that the government is lying about the usefulness of mass surveillance, and that analysts will struggle a lot to find needles of useful information in haystacks of totally irrelevant data.

Crucial intelligence will be lost in all that noise, and decisions that could save lives will not be taken as a result.

And Binney has seen this several times in the past having been at the NSA for many years in various functions.

He previously described as "absolute horse shit" claims by the U.K. government's lawyers that the huge volumes of data collected by the intelligence services won't be readable at the point of inception.

"Bulk data over-collection from internet and telephone networks greatly undermines security and has consistently resulted in loss of life in my country and elsewhere, from the 9/11 attacks to today, and will continue to do so", he will tell the joint select committee this afternoon.

"That approach costs many lives, and has cost lives in Britain before because it inundates analysts with too much data, some of it that's not even relevant. In most cases, it is 99 percent useless. Who wants to know everyone who has ever looked at Google or the BBC? We have known for decades that that swamps analysts," he said.

"The net effect of the current approach is that people die first, even if historic records sometimes can provide additional information about the killers who may be deceased by that time," he pointed out.

"These statements are false," he said in November, and Binney is expected to repeat the same thing today. "They were made by someone who does not understand the technology."

And Binney knows exactly what he is talking about. In a career spanning more than thirty years, he specialized in enabling government intelligence gathering, firstly as a Russia specialist during the Cold War, and then later as co-founder/leader of the NSA SIGINT Automation Research Center.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Binney became concerned that the NSA's approach of collecting all available data on everyone was misguided and in fact downright illegal if we scrutinize the U.S Constitution.

Binney and others within the NSA favored a selective surveillance regimen against selected targets, but that concept was shot down by government controllers, mostly during the George W. Bush administration, and prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Binney quit the NSA shortly afterwards and started his own security consultancy. After the 2005 New York Times story that the NSA was conducting mass spying on Americans' communications, he was interviewed by the FBI but then cleared of any wrongdoing.

A few months later, Binney was arrested at gunpoint by the FBI while in the shower, and other NSA staff who had raised similar questions were also collared by the FBI.

After the NSA withdrew his security clearance, his business collapsed, and Binney went fully public with his analysis of the current surveillance state.

Since then, he has addressed the EU Parliament on the issue, and is now visiting the United Kingdom to spread the word.

The wheelchair-bound whistleblower says he wants to help Britain avoid making the same mistakes of their American cousins, as he has pointed out several times before.

"The alternative approach based on my experience is to use social networks as defined by metadata relationships and some additional rules to smartly select information from the tens of terabytes flowing by everyday," he will say later today.

"This focused data collected around known targets plus potential developmental targets and represented by a much smaller set of content for analysts to look through. This makes the content issue more manageable and optimizes the probability of analysts succeeding," he asserted.

"This approach also has the additional advantage that protected groups can have their communications screened out and excluded from bulk collection and analysis, unless a designated and authorized targeting authority is in place," Binney concluded.

Source: William Binney.

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