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William Binney, A Good American

This is a very interesting story about William Binney and others who worked at the NSA in the 90s and 2000s, especially Kirk Wiebe, Diane Roark, Ed Loomis and Tom Drake, all of whom eventually decided to leave the agency believing it was breaking fundamental constitutional guarantees.

The story, however, focuses on Binney, and traces his life story from school onwards as he joined the intelligence services and proved his worth time and again by developing tools to analyse metadata and pick out patterns of behaviour.

In the 90s, with the rise of terrorism, along with others he developed the ThinThread programme, which was a mass surveillance program. But one with a difference: it didn’t identify people but patterns of behaviour. The NSA eventually decided to go with another programme which was as intrusive to privacy as we have come to know from the NSA: Trailblazor.

This programme proved to be almost worthless, and missed the patterns that ThinThread would have picked up and could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Covering their tracks, however, was the most the NSA was able to offer later.

In 2007 Binney and many of the people named above were subject to unannounced, armed, early morning raids as they were suspected to be behind an New York Times expose on the warrantless mass surveillance programmes.

The story is well told, with reconstructions, interviews, dramatic interludes and historical footage. It pieces together a complex story and makes it understandable. It is quite interesting that the film was made by Austrian film maker Friedrich Moser. Executive Producer was Oliver Stone. 

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