Sworn Declaration of Whistleblower William Binney on NSA Domestic Surveillance Capabilities

The following sworn declaration of William Binney, a former employee of the NSA and specialist in traffic analysis, was filed July 2, 2012 in support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s case against the National Security Agency (Jewel v. NSA) regarding their illegal domestic surveillance programs which, according to Binney “are consistent, as a mathematical matter, with seizing both the routing information and the contents of all electronic communications” inside the U.S.  Thanks to Jacob Appelbaum for originally drawing attention to the declaration.


  • 10 pages
  • July 2, 2012


I, William Binney, declare:

1. I am a former employee of the National Security Agency (“NSA”), the signals intelligence agency within the Department of Defense. Unless otherwise indicated, I have personal knowledge of each and every fact set forth below and can competently testify thereto.

2. A true and correct copy of my resume is attached hereto as Exhibit A.

3. In the late 1990’s, the increasing use of the Internet for communications presented the NSA with a special kind of problem: The NSA could not collect and smartly select from the large volume of data traversing the Internet the nuggets of needed information about “Entities of Interest” or “Communities of Interest,” while protecting the privacy of U.S. persons. Human analysts had to manually identify the groups and entities associated with activities that the NSA sought to monitor. That process was so laborious that it significantly hampered the NSA’s ability to do large scale data analysis.

4. One of my roles at the NSA was to find a means of automating the work of human analysts. I supervised and participated in the development of a program called “Thin Thread” within the NSA. Thin Thread was designed to identify networks of connections between individuals from their electronic communications over the Internet in an automated fashion in real time. The concept was for devices running Thin Thread to monitor international communications traffic passing over the Internet. Where one side of an international communication was domestic, the NSA had to comply with the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”). With Thin Thread, the data would be encrypted (and the privacy of U.S. citizens protected) until such time as a warrant could be obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Comi.

5. The advent of the September 11 attacks brought a complete change in the approach 18 of the NSA toward doing its job. FISA ceased to be an operative concern, and the individual liberties preserved in the U.S. Constitution were no longer a consideration. It was at that time that the NSA began to implement the group of intelligence activities now known as the President’s Surveillance Program (“PSP”). While I was not personally read into the PSP, various members of my Thin Thread team were given the task of implementing various aspects of the PSP. They confided in me and told me that the PSP involved the collection of domestic electronic communications traffic without any of the privacy protections built into Thin Thread.

6. I resigned from the NSA in late 2001. I could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.

7. The NSA chose not to implement Thin Thread. To the best of my knowledge, the NSA does not have a means of analyzing Internet data for the purpose of identifying Entities or Communities of Interest in real time. The NSA has the capability to do individualized searches, similar to Google, for particular electronic communications in real time through such criteria as target addresses, locations, countries and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. The NSA also has the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers. The wholesale collection of data allows the NSA to identify and analyze Entities or Communities of interest later in a static database. Based on my proximity to the PSP and my years of experience at the NSA, I can draw informed conclusions from the available facts. Those facts indicate that the NSA is doing both.

8. The NSA could have installed its intercept equipment at the nation’s fiber-optic cable landing stations. See Greg’s Cable Map, cablemap.info. There are more than two dozen such sites on the U.S. coasts where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If the NSA had taken that route, it would have been able to limit its interception of electronic communications to international/international and international/domestic communications and exclude domestic/domestic communications. Instead the NSA chose to put its intercept equipment at key junction points (for example Folsom Street) and probably throughout the nation, thereby giving itself access to purely domestic communications. The conclusion of J. Scott Marcus in his declaration that the “collection of infrastructure … has all the capability necessary to conduct large scale covert gathering of IP-based communications information, not only for communications to overseas locations, but .for purely domestic communications as well,” is correct.

9. I estimate that the NSA installed no fewer than ten and possibly in excess of twenty intercept centers within the United States. I am familiar with the contents of Mark Klein’s declaration. The AT&T center on Folsom Street in San Francisco is one of the NSA intercept centers. Mr. Klein indicated that the NSA’s equipment intercepted Internet traffic on AT&T’s peering network. It makes sense for the NSA to intercept traffic on AT &T’s peering network. The idea would be to avoid having to install interception equipment on each of the thousands of parallel data lines that eventually lead into and out of peering networks. By focusing on peering networks, the NSA intercepts data at the choke point in the system through which all data must pass in order to move from one party’s network to another’s. This is particularly important because a block data is often broken up into many smaller packets for transmission. These packets may traverse different routes before reaching the destination computer which gathers them and reassembles the original block.

10. One of the most notable pieces of equipment identified in Mr. Klein’s declaration is the NARUS Semantic Traffic Analyzer. According to the NARUS website, each NARUS device collects telecommunications data at the rate of ten gigabits per second and organizes the data into coherent streams based on the protocol associated with a specific type of collected data. A protocol is an agreed-upon way for data to be broken down into packets for transmission over the Internet, for the packets to be routed over the Internet to a designated destination and for the packets to be re-assembled at its destination. Protocols exist at each layer of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) 7-layer telecommunications model and are used for a wide variety of data, not just electronic communications. That means that NARUS can reconstruct all information transmitted through the peering network and forward all of the electronic communications to a database for analysis. The NARUS device can also select predetermined data from that path and forward the data to organizations having interest in the data. As I indicated above, the predetermined data would involve target addresses, locations, countries, and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases.

11. A further notable development has been the NSA’s public announcement in October 2009 that it was building a massive, $1.2 billion digital storage facility in Ft. Williams, Utah. According to some reports, the Utah facility will eventually have a data storage capacity measured in yottabytes (1024 bytes). Even if the Utah facility were to have no more than the amount of data storage that is presently commercially available, then one would expect the data storage to be in the range of multiples often exebytes (1018 bytes). See www.cleversafe.com. (According to Cleversafe, its ten exebyte storage solution fills no more than two hundred square feet). In April 2011, the NSA also announced that it would build a new supercomputing center at its Ft. Meade, Maryland headquarters.

12. The amount of data that each NARUS device can process per second is large (10 gigabits is 10 billion bits). To illustrate the sheer size of the data storage capacity ofthe Utah facility, one could assume the installation of twenty-five NARUS devices in the U.S. and that all of 2 the NARUS-processed data is sent via fiber-optic cable to Utah. That means that the NARUS processing rate of 10 billion bits per second means that one machine can produce approximately 4 x 1016 bytes per year. That in turn means that it would take twenty-five devices one year to fill an exebyte or ten years to fill ten exebytes.

13. The sheer size of that capacity indicates that the NSA is not filtering personal electronic communications such as email before storage but is, in fact, storing all that they are collecting. The capacity of NSA’s planned infrastructure far exceeds the capacity necessary for the storage of discreet, targeted communications or even for the storage of the routing information from all electronic communications. The capacity of NSA’s planned infrastructure is consistent, as a mathematical matter, with seizing both the routing information and the contents of all electronic communications.

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20 comments for “Sworn Declaration of Whistleblower William Binney on NSA Domestic Surveillance Capabilities

  1. July 23, 2012 at 3:09 am

    oh its so true…VERY TRUE! your whole life in a pencil dot!

  2. Citizen
    July 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    God Bless this man, and all true whistleblowers!

  3. aric arch
    July 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Interresting stuff, heres something interresting.. Friends of mine were on at trip to new york,outside the un building they found an i phone that had russian on it, we let a friend look at the phone who understood russian, as he read it his eyes got big, he said we shouldnt have this phone, it has secrets on it, we took the battery out of it so it cant be tracked until we can find out everything on it, we will keep it hid

    • July 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      it’s possibly still trackable with battery out … check into that . stay safe

    • Truth Is We Love The Truth
      January 27, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Its now January 2015, and Im wondering what happened with the cell phone , and did anything important come to surface from having it anylized and translated? just thought Id ask?

  4. August 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Makes me want a SCIF like the ones used in this book about the abuse of domestic surveillance with drone technology. Great book! http://www.amazon.com/Goldfinch-Drones-Cyrus-Paul/dp/0615623557/ref=cm_rdp_product

  5. August 3, 2012 at 4:41 am

    “Domestic Surveillance Capabilities” isn’t an accurate description of digital recording. Only humans are capable of surveillance of other humans, and filtering programs and targeted selection are still mindless processes that produce results only if things that relate to national security are filtered out. That is likely to involve an infinitesimally small number of natural born American citizens. All the rest of the internet traffic is just ignored, irrelevant, useless static to the intel agencies, and no human being ever sees it because it is as vast as an ocean in volume. It is the haystack in which criminal and terrorist needles may hide. The feds aren’t interested in the haystack, what government would be? Well, maybe Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea.

    • nine
      August 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      If you say so. If you think people always use information for purely upright and legal reasons, then continue to live in your fantasy land. These kinds of things can be used by the powerful to maintain their power.

      • Truth Is We Love The Truth
        January 27, 2015 at 11:07 am

        Truth being said ! Thank you and The only time we should stop speaking the Truth , IS WHEN WE NEED TO YELL IT INSTEAD.!

    • RedRedMane
      August 9, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Yep! We’re ALL in very serious trouble!

  6. Geoffrey Nicoletti
    October 23, 2012 at 12:51 am

    There are four levels of cyber attacks (most people only know of the first level: bits and bytes laytering bits and bytes). It is too dangerous to talk publically of the fourth level but Stuxnet is a clue.
    And if it hits United States from within the United States by a planted Chinese “eagle” (PLA), it will be too late to track and arrest him; therefore, such a terrorist hacker within the US must be found by graph/domain analysis, not a toptic landing stations but peering networks. Bliuffdale may be a tretch for democracy, but no Bluffdale means chaos if we do not find such a hacker in time. Binney is short-sighted.

  7. Juan
    January 20, 2013 at 9:56 am

    ” Bliuffdale [sic] may be a tretch [sic] for democracy…”

    no, bluffdale is simply a small utah community; the psp, nsa, etc, are part of a institutional negating of a proto-democracy and, i would add, they are minor compared to the force generated by the contradiction between global economic and national political.

  8. Juan
    January 20, 2013 at 10:05 am

    more – they are mere evidence of greater global uncontrollability, and ‘evidence’ which increases said condition

  9. agianstnsaoverreach
    June 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    gov workers who leak gov misconduct or crimes are heros, should be promoted, and are working for the public.

    its impossible to prevent/stop all bad things from happening. HOW could
    hypocritically spying on everyone prevent crime? DETAILS? EXAMPLES?! even if it could, the risk of people being punished for speech is higher than the chance it would prevent crime. gov spying on everyone could be and has been used to murder(might blame it on defense, suicide, or frame someone), disappear, abuse, arrest, and punish people for speech ,political and reglious beleifs, and association. gov can more easily get away with and conceal crime.
    if gov thought spying on everyone was good for national security, gov wouldnt have a problem with publisizeing everything about gov and being 100%transparent, w/o non-gov even haveing to ask. it doesnt, becaues it just wants to punish speech.

    plans, plots,and funding “terrorist groups” arnt illegal. freedom of speech. first fire gov workers who plan to commit crimes(exspecially murder)agianst innocent people.
    some corrupt gov workers wrongly lable law-abideing average people terrorists based on speech or political/religious beleifs, because corrupt gov is terrified of law-abideing people that want to expose and stop corruption.

    gov who hypocritically searches and seizies w/o reasonable suspcion is a traitor who betrayed their oath to defend the consitution and supreme laws of the land.

    they’re a tratior for betraying the public lieing to them saying they are there for national security when actualy they breach national secuirty, and only secure gov criminals from being prosecuted.

    gov workers who hypcoritically spy on the public at large w/o reasonable suspcion, are the enemy.

    only criminals would say exposeing/leaking evidence of crimes is aiding the enemy because law-abideing people that try to stop crime are a criminal’s enemy.

    gov is subject to transparency laws that non-gov isnt subject to

    its legal to share (gov info that is legally sapose to be published) with the public

    public sector(gov) is sapose to be the public’s employees and be publicly viewable(w some good-reasoned public approved exseptions)

    non-gov is the private sector-

    meaning non-gov has the right to privacy. everyone is the public.

    corrupt gov says: top secret criminal intel gathering programs and gov’s classified crimes if exposed put national security at risk.(actually its the oposite, …its good for national security to expose top secret criminal intel gathering programs. it puts national security at risk for gov to spy on the whole public- it puts criminals at risk of being caught if their crimes are exposed)

    corrupt gov says: its to keep the country safe.(actually its to keep criminals safe from being legally and rightfully fired and charged)
    corrupt gov says: were takeing phone records and spying on non-gov at the same time punishing anyone who spys on us. its well known were only collecting info w the intent to use it agianst people, and there’s a high chance it will be used to punish people for speech and association-because it happened before(like the irs scandal(punitivly taxed for poltical beleifs), and punishments could get much worse inlcudeing murder torture and imprisionment for diagreeing w gov)-no need to worry its for your saftey, your dum enough to beleive that right?
    the only reason to collect info(speech/words) is to use it(in this case to discriminate agianst people based on it)

    when gov collects unnessicary info-people get punished for their speech and association(irs scandal)

    gov isnt more moral than non-gov.

    w/o liberty your not safe. the only point of saftey is to keep your liberty safe and to be safe from haveing your liberty taken away from you. w/o liberty and freedom, whats there to keep safe?nothing.

    when we have the freedom to do what we want with our private property and bodies as long as it doesnt touch or endanger others private property w/o their permisison, our property is safe from being stollen/taxed, controlled, kidnapped, restricted, trapped, physcially abused, or murdered.

    gov’s job isnt to collect unnesicary info or search w/o probable cause
    gov has alot more serious crimes it should be going after(like violent offenders, kidnappers) instead of spying on everyone

    gov’s job is to protect people’s right to not have their private property searched or seized w/o probable cause.

    immediatly fire gov workers who(or think its ok for gov to:) search or seizure w/o probable cause of crime
    see something say something-report gov’s suspcious activity
    whistle blower law-cant legally get in trouble for reporting crime/gov-misconduct

    whistleblower=someone that reports crime or misconduct.

    its gov’s job to report and try to stop crime/gov-misconduct, and protect everyone=under the law=not letting some get away w the same type of misconduct you dont let others get away with, =no spying on everyone while at the same time disallowing everyone to spy on you

    require gov workers report gov-misconduct and gov’s activity that is suspected to be misconduct or else get fired and owe wage refund. (exsept in cases where your likely to be punished if you reported-however you must still do whatever you can to report in a safe way

    allowing criminals to go unpunished puts everyone at risk.

    require gov workers immediatly investigate reports of gov misconduct and take minor complaints seriously

    put gov under 24-7live public video survailence(exsept w detailed good reason presented to the public to keep certian info secret). reasons for gov secrets shouldnt be secret.

    make gov delete all info it illegally collected, and info collected that isnt freely accessble to the public(ex buying info from bussiness’s), w/o at least reasonaoble suspision of a crime.

    • Truth Is We Love The Truth
      January 27, 2015 at 11:33 am

      The governmeny wasnt designed to police the citizens whatsoever, but we unknowingly are living in a police state”. If each of us American citizens wereto sit down and thoroughly study The US constution and a related Documents that completely and absolutely explain government’s role , responsibilities, , and restrictions, and The rights, and liberties of ((All))the American citizens (Equally ) Then and only Then Could we be properly and horrifically aware ,that we are living in a tyrannical governed country whrre we the people are living as an Oppressed peoples and nowhere near a Republic with a democracy “..

      • Truth Is We Love The Truth
        January 27, 2015 at 11:35 am

        I dare anyone to prove me wrong,

  10. American Patriot
    July 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Government was granted only ENUMERATED AUTHORITY by the PEOPLE, it was NEVER granted absolute power!
    Government to date, has USURPED this power from the people, taken power they do NOT have by law, and made US the slaves to their personal ambitions to stifle us, make us criminals to them, used illegal entrapment schemes and LIED to us countless times. Government MUST be REIGNED IN for good, and their authority must now be STOPPED COLD!
    WE THE PEOPLE can no longer accept, nor tolerate the crimes against the people any longer!
    We live in the Midwest, in the upper areas not centered around a huge metro area like D.C or Chicago, or even L.A, but if we did, I can assure you, we would be out looking for addresses and phone numbers of ALL politicians, and begin our own campaign on domestic spying on THEM, recording their every move, tapping their phones, following them. ANYTHING to start making these people feel INSECURE, knowing THEY are now being PERSONALLY TARGETED for OUR surveillance programs!

  11. American Patriot
    July 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Be warned, we ARE coming for YOU!

  12. corraledmustang
    August 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Wake Up America! This is a complete betrayal of all citizens by the very people elected to protect and represent us. No way we can get all of that information stored destroyed…it’s time to play TAPS for America friends…they’ve sold us down the river!

  13. denis winkle
    November 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    It’s amazing what money can bribe people to do. And after the fact. You only need to repent. You either become a “Born again Christian” or a “whistle blower”! lol

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