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Saturday Night Film: A Good American
What Exactly Happened At the NSA To Bill Binney And His Outstanding Crew
I’ve seen this three times—the first time when it premiered in New York City, with Bill Binney and some of the others present on a panel discussion afterward.
It’s a crushing precursor to “everything” that lay in store for the United States and her citizens.
It’s something every American should watch, and it’s very sobering, in case you still know people who think the NSA “fights terrorism.” (And I know you don’t.)
My father was in the NSA, as a translator and de-encryptor of Soviet military cables, during the Korean War. This was because he spoke Russian. The story he told me was that it was incredibly boring, lest I think he had fascinating spy tales to tell me. Every cable, he said, was about minor variations on the same thing: Logs of transports of things like ball bearings. He went to his superiors and tried to persuade them that they could train a monkey to translate these cables. I actually don’t know if he meant that literally, but he had some harebrained idea about how it could be farmed out to either human or monkey who didn’t even speak Russian, as it was always the same small handful of words. They rejected his plan—made him keep doing the job, I don’t know for how long.
But he remained enamored of the NSA he knew and had a funny line. Hear this in a southern accent:
”Back in my day, it was a beautiful little spy orginazation,” he said. (Pronounced “spaaah.”)
In all seriousness, what happened to the heroic and brilliant people in this film—their punishment for being excellent, for inventing the perfect tool to detect “terrorism” without compromising any American citizen’s privacy—is a tragedy and a crime. Another crime, for which nobody was punished.
In 2020 I heard an interview with Bill Binney in which he described enduring excruciating pain in his legs (he’s a double amputee) at the exact time every night, when he turned off his lights. He went on to describe how his wife, who he had married recently, was a targeted individual, and knew how to have him scanned for implants. They were found—in his legs. But no surgeon was willing (or maybe able) to remove them. I think he eventually concluded that they gave him the bacterial infection that occasioned the amputations. Presumably, during the resulting surgery, they put them in.
Bill Binney is a truly great American patriot. I just went to look for any updates on him, and found this interview from five months ago, which I have not listened to yet.
Imagine our government destroying an asset like this, a man so brilliant, who even rejected their fat budgets, and did what he needed to do on a shoestring. Our government is diseased to the core. This is also the same story I found repeated over and over, in American “science,” in molecular biology: They destroy the best, and protect the worst.
A note as you watch: You may not agree with him about everything. Don’t let that interfere with your astonishment, or admiration, for his odyssey, and painfully earned wisdom.