Decorated documentarian Laura Poitras, renown for films such as “My Country, My County” and “The Oath”, recently profiled National Security Administration (NSA) whistleblower William Brinney. In this segment from an upcoming Op-Doc titled “The Program”, Binney details a post-9/11 NSA program he helped design, and explains how the federal government turned these tools against the American people.
Although law mandates that the NSA restrict intelligence collection to foreign communications, post-9/11 national security policies grant tacit authority to dishonor Americans’ right to privacy. Recalling his work on a program called Stellar Wind, Binney tells of a “separate” NSA operation established specifically for domestic spying. Binney states, “it was simply a different input; instead of foreign, it was domestic”. This description suggests that the NSA may perform domestic surveillance, despite legislative proscription, to the same extent it executes its express duties. In effect, Stellar Wind signifies a program created to circumvent constitutional protections.
While jeopardizing the right to privacy and chilling the freedoms of speech and association, the NSA’s Stellar Wind program also violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”). FISA governs matters of global communication regarding foreign intelligence. Though subsequent legislation such as the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendment Act of 2008 (“FAA”) aggrandize domestic surveillance authority, no law may disturb the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. By violating Americans’ fundamental freedoms, the NSA creates insecurity in the nation it purports to protect. Acquiescence to government misconduct enables further infringement upon civil rights. Engagement and organization are effective means of combating the erosion of our liberties.
The House has already voted to extend the FAA for another five years, but the Senate does not vote on this matter until December. If the FAA fails to pass the Senate, this noxious law will expire. Contact or visit your state Senator’s office and demand that they represent your community’s opposition to secret civilian surveillance.