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25 March, 2016

'9/11 was a gift to the NSA ...'


This was probably the most impressive revelation derived by the documentary A Good American watched by the blog at the 18th Documentary Festival of Thessaloniki.

The exceptional documentary by Friedrich Moser deconstructs completely the image of the National Security Agency, one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world. Through the revealing stories of former NSA employees who became whistleblowers - like William Binney, Diane Roark and Thomas Andrews Drake - the agency appears that it has become a field of personal ambitions and money hunting through huge funds from the central government.

Moreover, the experienced, top analyst, William Binney (who is the central figure of the documentary), deconstructs the myth of an organization that is supposed to be pioneer in new technologies. He presents NSA as an organization which had certain difficulties to follow the explosive progress of the computer technology during 1990s, in order to modernize its obsolete equipment as fast as possible.

But the most mind-blowing revelation comes from Binney's NSA colleague Thomas Drake. At one point, Drake recalls how a Senior Military Officer dismissed Osama bin Laden as “a raghead spouting off about a fatwa in the desert” in response to their intelligence reports on Al Qaeda in the late 90s. After the events of 9/11, Drake quotes his former NSA boss Maureen Baginski who reportedly said “9/11 was a gift to the NSA, we’re gonna get all the money we need and then some.[1]

Although one could claim that behind this story is hidden a conflict of interest concerning two rival projects proposed to the NSA, there is plenty of evidence that ThinThread, the project developed by a small group around Binney, was rejected against Trailblazer, only because Trailblazer was promoted by a powerful lobby inside the NSA.

Indeed, as also presented in the documentary: NSA whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe, William Binney, Ed Loomis, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staffer Diane Roark complained to the Department of Defense's Inspector General (IG) about waste, fraud, and abuse in the program, and the fact that a successful operating prototype existed, but was ignored when the Trailblazer program was launched. The complaint was accepted by the IG and an investigation began that lasted until mid-2005 when the final results were issued. The results were largely hidden, as the report given to the public was heavily (90%) redacted, while the original report was heavily classified, thus restricting the ability of most people to see it. [2]

Additionally, in July 2007, armed FBI agents raided the homes of Roark, Binney, and Wiebe, the same people who had filed the complaint with the DoD Inspector General in 2002. Binney claims they pointed guns at his wife and himself. Wiebe said it reminded him of the Soviet Union. None of these people were charged with any crimes. In November 2007, there was a raid on Drake's residence. His computers, documents, and books were confiscated. He was never charged with giving any sensitive information to anyone; the charge actually brought against him is for 'retaining' information. The FBI tried to get Roark to testify against Drake; she refused. [3]

The documentary also reveals that the project ThinThread not only was much cheaper, but had two additional advantages: it was much more effective and was designed to protect the personal data of millions of citizens who were not related with terrorist activity.

Although NSA leadership rejected ThinThread three weeks prior to 9/11, in a secret test-run of the program against the pre-9/11-NSA database in early 2002, the program immediately found the terrorists. [4]

No one should expect intelligence agencies to be composed by "angels" who follow strictly a moral code. The dirty role of US and other agencies around the world for many decades is well known.

Yet, this documentary uncovers something much worse. Nothing has left from the original mission that the NSA supposedly serves. The protection of citizens against terrorist attacks has become irrelevant in front of the big money targeted by the corrupted groups of interests inside the agency. It seems that nothing has been remained unaffected from the rotten culture of "money and power above all and by all means" that dominates in today's societies.





[4] A Good American (2015), Plot Summary, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4065414/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

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