The Program

Op-Docs | The New York Times

Director/Producer/Editor: Laura Poitras

August 23, 2012

Part of Transcript

on screen;

Following 9/11, the NSA began a top-secret surveillance program to spy on U.S. citizens without warrants. Code-named Stellar Wind, or "The Program" to insiders, the full scope of the surveillance has not been made public. Binney worked at the N.S.A. for 32 years. He is regarded as one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in the N.S.A.'s history.


After 9/11 they took one of the programs I had done - the back end part of it- and started to use it to spy on everybody in this country. That was the program they created that was called Stellar Wind. That was a separate and compartmented from the regular activity that was ongoing, because it was doing domestic spying. When all the equipment was coming in I knew something was happening. But then, when the contractors that I had hired came and told me what they were doing, it was clear where all the hardware was going and what they were using it to do. It was simply a different input, instead of being foreign it was domestic.


Every domain -think of a domain as an activity, a specific type of activity: phone calls, or banking is another domain. So think of graphing each domain and then each graph and turning it in the third dimension. The trick now is to map through all the domains in that third dimension, pulling together all the activities that any individual had in every domain, so that now you can pull an entire life togetherfrom all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time.

on screen:

The N.S.A. is currently building the country's biggest data storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah. Binney calculates the facility has the capacity to store 100 years' worth of the world's electronic communications.

Voice: I don't understand why you are not right [?]. 

Binney: Why should I? 

Voice: Because if what you are saying it was possible the revolutionary people would have vested interests in many methods [...?]. 

Binney: ... and do what? Up to what?




It is something the KGB, the Stasi would have loved to have for their population. Just because we called ourselves a democracy it doesn't men we'll stay that way. That's the real issue. Then the people will have absolutely nothing to say about it. We haven't had anything to say so far.

on screen:

No charges have ever been filed against Binney.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act law that oversees the N.S.A. is scheduled to be reauthorized in December 2012.

13 senators have signed a letter expressing concern that the law allows the collection of personal data from U.S. citizens.

Version: 7 November 2016

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Joachim Gruber