This article originally appeared in VPN Ranks.

You may have heard about Edward Snowden, but have you ever heard about J. Kirk Wiebe, Mark Klein and William E. Binney. These brave men blew the whistle on the NSA much before Snowden, and told us the truth about the NSA over a decade ago.

J. Kirk Wiebe
J. Kirk Wiebe worked in the NSA for over 30 years. During that time, he won the Meritorious Civilian Service Award amongst other distinctions. J. Kirk Wiebe was an intelligence collection and data mining genius at the NSA when he began to notice something odd about the NSA’s activities shortly before the 9/11 attacks.

J. Kirk Wiebe was one of the first few people who realized that the NSA was directing its resources to spy on American civilians without any probable cause. The attacks of 9/11 served as confirmation that the NSA had failed to serve its purpose mainly because it was being utilized for misdirected surveillance.

This became apparent to J. Kirk Wiebe almost 9 months before the 9/11 attacks, and voices were raised in favor of ThinThread. ThinThread was a data processing and mining system designed to collect meta-data (data about data), that could have been used to stop the 9/11 attacks.

Instead, the NSA chose to sideline ThinThread and chose to go with TrailBlazer. TrailBlazer was significantly less respectful towards the requirements of the 4th Amendment and did not have the same effectiveness as ThinThread – as evident by the incidence of the 9/11 attacks.

Even after the failure of the NSA’s TrailBlazer program, J. Kirk Wiebe continued to promote ThinThread and numerous demonstrations made it clear that ThinThread was much better tool for government-level data management and mining than TrailBlazer could ever be.

J. Kirk Wiebe came under the spotlight when he started blowing the whistle on the failure of the NSA’s TrailBlazer program and the billions that the failure had cost. When the NSA finally picked up ThinThread after the 9/11 attacks, the ThinThread system was exploited to carry out unwarranted spying on Americans.

J. Kirk Wiebe first blew the whistle on the NSA’s unwarranted domestic surveillance internally but recieved no assistance. After retirement, he continued to blow the whistle on the NSA’s unwarranted and domestic surveillance but to no avail. The media wasn’t interested in anything but the Afghan war at that time.

Mark Klein is a former AT&T employee who blew the whistle on the NSA’s domestic surveillance. As a technician at AT&T, in 2002, Mark Klein became suspicious when he noticed the NSA’s increased involvement.

A year or so afterwards, Mark Klein was able to confirm that the NSA was tapping into telecommunications providers data in order to conduct surveillance operations.

According to information leaked by Mark Klein, AT&T gave the NSA access to its San Francisco facility and thereby helped the NSA in tapping into countless email and internet records. He worked for AT&T for 22 years up until he retired in 2004, after which he continued to draw attention to the NSA’s activities.

Mark Klein alleges that the NSA used the access rights to AT&T facilities to develop a data collection system. Working with AT&T allowed the NSA to conduct domestic surveillance, without any warrants.

Mark Klein confirmed that:

“This splitter was sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner-style. The NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T’s customers but everybody’s”

By tapping into AT&T, the NSA was able to tap into other telecommunications providers that banked on AT&T for their services’ infrastructure. The NSA setup a separate room for the purpose of connecting AT&T’s internet data to their servers – collecting data at speeds of up to 2.5GB per second.

According to documents in Klein’s possession, the NSA is conducting sweep surveillance in which every bit of data (not just the meta-data) is being recorded. Nothing remains hidden from the NSA because it taps into the telecommunications provider directly.

The telecommunications provider’s infrastructure gets all the data to the data center, from where the NSA conveniently copies it all off as it is forwarded to its respective destinations.

Mark Klein blew the whistle on the operation after former President George W. Bush insisted that the NSA only collects meta-data, and that Americans are not the target of this surveillance. According to Mark Klein:

“They’re copying the whole Internet. There’s no selection going on here. Maybe they select out later, but at the point of handoff to the government, they get everything”

William E. Binney worked for the NSA for over 30 years, and then he blew the lid off all the lying and data stealing that the NSA is doing.

William E. Binney joined the NSA in the 70s and worked his way up the ladder after the Vietnam War to become a major Cryptanalyst and mathematician in the NSA. He was the Technical Leader for Intelligence in the NSA when he retired in 2001.

William E. Binney worked closely with J. Kirk Wiebe to expose the NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance through TrailBlazer and ThinThread. However, due to his high position in the NSA, William E. Binney had a particularly difficult time after he blew the whistle.

According to William E. Binney:

“Where I see it going is toward a totalitarian state. You’ve got the NSA doing all this collecting of material on all of its citizens – that’s what the SS, the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, and the NKVD did”

William E. Binney was hounded by the NSA and accussed of having leaked state secrets until a Federal investigation finally led to his exoneration.

Watch this interview with William E. Binney for some details that will make you question everything you know about the NSA and its surveillance programs.

In another interview with USA Today, William E. Binney stated that:

“the NSA becomes a processing service for the FBI to use to interrogate information directly… The implications are that everybody’s privacy is violated, and it can retroactively analyze the activity of anybody in the country back almost 12 years”

These men came much before Edward Snowden. It is because of the difficulties that they faced because of which Edward Snowden made the decision of going straight to the media. These men went to the government to complain about the government, and their lives became difficult afterwards.

These and many others have raised their voices against the NSA’s actions in the past. They have all confirmed that the NSA is engaged in shameless spying activities that show no sign of stopping any time soon. Online freedom and internet privacy is the right of every individual!

The only thing that can protect people like you and me against the NSA’s shameless spying and surveillance is a VPN. A VPN will encrypt your data and make it impossible for the NSA to decode it. Your data will be completely secure as it goes through your internet service provider’s servers and nobody will know who you are or what you are up to thanks to impenetrable VPN coverage.