Dieter Wieczorek
Dieter Wieczorek, essayist, film and festival critic and director of the Festival international Signes de nuit.

On overwhelming US State corruption and a worldwide attack on democracy.

A Good American

Friedrich Moser

Austria 2017, 1h 40min

Nowadays, it is odd hearing senior FBI agents officially declare in court that someone like Donald Trump, for example, has never been under surveillance. It is stranger still, considering Trump is an accidental player in what is happening in our surveillance system today. A small number of documentaries, however, speak quite a different language to what is heard in mainstream media, and offer different views to what official statements would like us to believe. But, the question remains, how important are these handfuls of documentaries, seen by a limited audience? How do they compare to the reality produced in mass media today?

Friedrich Moser (born in 1969), an Austrian filmmaker, researched a subject that no American documentary filmmaker would touch. In A Good American, the facts revealed are some that many high ranking US officials, politicians and influential journalists would prefer not to discover themselves. The task of having to expose them is simply too daunting an undertaking. It is a revelation of the highest political brisance and exposes one crucial fact: the September 11 attacks could have been prevented. Moser documents why it happened and the fate of those who wanted to stop it.

William (Bill) Binney is a crypto-mathematical genius and an outstanding information technology analyst. Where others only see signs, he sees structures. In the 1990s, along with five colleagues, he developed a surveillance and analysis system called ‘Thin Thread’. This was cut-price with built-in privacy protections, an element very important to Binney and his team. It worked exclusively with metadata, intercepting and analysing phone calls, emails, texts and other communications systems. Furthermore, the program used more sophisticated methods to sort through massive amounts of data and identify suspect communication than the full data processing program in place. Which sorted through millions of terabytes of data and still came up with minimal results a year later.

Binney was able to intercept and announce the invasion of Afghanistan by Russian troops two weeks prior the event, without speaking a word of Russian. Three weeks before the attacks on the World Trade Centre, ’Thin Thread’ was discontinued. As a later audit revealed, the program would have been able to determine specific names and targets of the attack. The NSA General, Michael V. Hayden, however, gave the green light for a much more expensive, massive data analysing program called ‘Trailblazer’.

This signalled the end of global private data protection. A 280 million dollar contract for its development was offered to a private American company, the ‘Science Applications International Corporation’ (SAIC), which employed former NSA staff, who brought in their knowledge and contacts. At her office, Maureen Baginski, the NSA’s third highest-ranking official, informed Binney that she would rather upset six people (his team) than the 500 other NSA officials. Following the attacks, she declared 9/11 was a “gift for the NSA”. Thomas Drake, ex-senior executive at the NSA, quotes Baginski as saying: “Now, we will get all the money we need and even more” (which is exactly what happened).

Binney resigned from the NSA shortly after the 9/11 attacks, when it became apparent to him that the NSA was illegally spying on the American people, violating their privacy rights. Facing the development of a mass surveillance machine, Binney decided to speak out, warning the public and government about the rising danger. The acclaimed analyst and patriot, whose life’s work was to defend his country, became a high-profile whistle-blower, and consequently, an enemy of the State. Heavily armed police raided his home, confiscating his computers and other personal and business records.

Binney has been subject to retaliation and punishment and yet he still continues to inform the public. He was asked to consult on Oliver Stone’s documentary Snowden (2016). His message is simple: without protection of the private sphere, democracy is no longer possible. Self-censorship as a consequence of global surveillance on all kinds of activities means the end of freedom of thought, speech and action. Without transparency concerning the largest technological infiltration since National Socialism, organised by a political-economical power group, the human, as a self-determined entity acting on the basis of it own analysis and decisions, is just a farce.

Even now, it is evident that there is no investigative journalism concerning surveillance technology in the United States. Attempts in this direction quickly come under pressure. Journalism fails its first duty, to inform the public about its government. As Moser points out: If there is no clear division between governments and secret services, you will end up with a secret police.

Even curious congress members were supplied with incorrect information and became targets of legal pursuits. The secret service is not informing parliament. Instead, billions of dollars are invested in even more intrusive surveillance technologies. These have become a very lucrative business which profits escape controls extensively. Once the information is archived, it is almost impossible to protect the data. The surveillance programs do not leave any traces.

The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistle-blowers than any previous US President. Those who speak out have been harshly judged, the loss of their livelihood being the least of their problems. In a recent interview, Binney spoke of the creation of a global technocratic government. Everything seems to already be in place. The fact that the illegal recording of data has not appeared for examination before the Supreme Court goes to show that, if, indeed, a violation of privacy rights was found, the entire government surveillance activities, systems and archives would be considered criminal. The protection against terrorist attacks is just the legitimate excuse for mass surveillance collection. In reality, attacks are very useful, as Binney resumed: “keep the problem going, so the money keeps flowing”.

Friedrich Moser delivers his explosive content as a visual firework, where algorithms dance on the screen. Not to mention the magnificent sound track, which evokes an ongoing flow of physically perceptible subtle and dubious forces.


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