Petraeus Resignation Indicates Illegal Domestic Surveillance

Brian Koenig | Dec 31, 2012, 10:05 a.m.

The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus incited a number of political time bombs, including one of the more contentious speculations, a White House cover-up over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. But the latest episode in the scandal propels a more sensitive issue, one that targets the American people as a whole, through government surveillance and the possible imposition of U.S. law.

Indeed, following Petraeus’ resignation, which was spurred by an extramarital affair he had with his biographer, a formerly high-ranking member of the National Security Agency (NSA) says the FBI’s investigation of the highly decorated U.S. veteran indicates that digital privacy has become a liberty of the past.

“What I’ve been basically saying for quite some time, is that the FBI has access to the data collected, which is basically the emails of virtually everybody in the country,” NSA whistleblower William Binney said in a recent interview with the Kremlin-funded news outlet Russia Today (RT). “And the FBI has access to it.”

Petraeus had reportedly used a pseudonym to contrive multiple e-mail accounts that he used to communicate with his mistress. Their communication remained so discreet that one e-mail account was shared so they could communicate via messages that they left in a drafts folder, allowing them to correspond without actually sending messages.

Binney’s testimony against the NSA stands among a number of other accusations posed by whistleblowers who have questioned the federal government’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance efforts. One effort Binney describes, which he deems blatantly illegal, is the use of a technology referred to as “Naris,” which the agency uses to aimlessly gather e-mails and other digital data without having to gain permission from providers.

The George W. Bush administration has become the poster child for post-9/11 domestic surveillance, with critics often highlighting spying efforts such as the Patriot Act, which granted the federal government unprecedented authority to regulate financial transactions and monitor other civilian activities.

But when asked by RT whether domestic surveillance efforts have abated since President Obama took office in 2008, Binney expressed the contrary. “The change is it’s getting worse. They are doing more,” the NSA whistleblower affirmed. “He is supporting the building of the Bluffdale facility, which is over $2 billion they are spending on storage room for data. That means that they are collecting a lot more now and need more storage for it.”

The overall theme represented in Binney’s testimony indicates the need to safeguard the freedoms and liberties granted to us under the U.S. Constitution. “The central (U.S.) government defines what is right and wrong and whether or not they target you,” Binney concluded. “They are violating the foundation of this entire country ... and they are not living up to the oath of office.”

Computerworld.com posed the obvious, and more damning question, “If the head of the CIA can’t figure out how to keep his emails private, do the rest of us even stand a chance?”

Considering the circumstances, we ought not to count on it.

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