In our age of careerism, it’s rare for high-ranking officials to sacrifice their powerful posts for principle, but that was what NSA’s William Binney and the late U.S. Ambassador Robert White did. Their sacrifices and integrity were honored by likeminded former government officials, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes.
By Ray McGovern
During a standing-room-only event held at Unter den Linden 52 in the shadow of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) presented its 14th annual award to ex-National Security Agency official William Binney on Jan. 22. Binney ended his 36-year career in intelligence after 9/11 when he learned that NSA Director Michael Hayden had removed Fourth Amendment privacy protections from the agency’s surveillance of Americans.
More than half of the former Sam Adams award recipients, who were free to travel, took part in the award ceremony. In the not-free-to-travel category, Edward Snowden (recipient in 2013) took part via live-stream video from Russia; former Army Pvt. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning (2014) is serving a 35-year sentence for releasing to WikiLeaks video and classified messages revealing, among other things, U.S. war crimes in Iraq. And WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange (2010) is well into his third year of confinement in Ecuador’s London embassy where he has political asylum.
As the Berlin ceremony began, Sam Adams Associates made its first posthumous award to U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White, who died on Jan. 13, 2015. Longtime SAAII veteran David MacMichael accepted the award on Ambassador White’s behalf and will give it to his widow.
White, like other foreign service officers who have been honored by SAAII, personified integrity by sacrificing his career in the early days of the Reagan administration rather than cover up torture, murder and other human rights crimes by Salvadoran “death squads” working with the U.S.-supported Salvadoran army.
Most memorably, White demanded justice for four American churchwomen who were raped and murdered in December 1980, upsetting the incoming Reagan administration’s plans to downplay that case and other atrocities. [To hear Ambassador White discuss another atrocity, the murder of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, click here. (Courtesy of journalist Don North)]
As a CIA analyst, MacMichael encountered similar attempts to conceal human rights crimes by U.S.-backed forces in Central America, an early example of the “politicized” intelligence pushed by Reagan’s CIA Director William Casey and his deputy, Robert Gates. MacMichael quit his senior CIA position and testified at The Hague to the truth about the Reagan administration’s secret war to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.
The actions of White and MacMichael fit with the legacy of previous SAAII award recipients, such as former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray (2005), who pleaded in vain for London to refuse to accept “intelligence” gotten by the most extreme kinds of torture, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Thomas Fingar (2012), whose professionalism and courage played a huge role in exposing the myth that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon.
[To watch the award event, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the article for the video coverage, which begins at minute 8:00 and ends at 1 hour, 26 minutes. (Courtesy of RT) Included are short presentations by Annie Machon, former UK MI5 whistleblower; Katharine Gun (awardee in 2003), GCHQ (the British NSA) whistleblower; Craig Murray (2005), former UK ambassador to the terror-friendly regime in Uzbekistan; Coleen Rowley (2002), FBI whistleblower about mistakes before 9/11; Thomas Drake (2011), former senior NSA executive; Jesselyn Radack (2011), former Department of Justice ethics adviser and first whistleblower on U.S torture and now attorney for other whistleblowers; Todd Pierce, Major, U.S. Army Judge Advocate (ret.) and defense counsel at Guantanamo; and Edward Snowden (2013), exposer of NSA abuses (via video live stream); Bill Binney with an engaging acceptance speech after the award citation was read aloud by Annie Machon (in English) and Elizabeth Murray (in German), after which SAAII’s Berlin host Joerg Dreger gave closing remarks.]
Text of the citation follows:
The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Presents its INTEGRITY AWARD for 2015 to: William Binney Know all ye by these presents that William Binney is hereby honored with the traditional Sam Adams Corner-Brightener Candlestick Holder, in symbolic recognition of Mr. Binney’s courage in shining light into dark places.
Bill Binney represents the patriotic side of a duel between two unequal adversaries: an exceedingly powerful and ruthless state and Bill, an official who would not break his solemn oath to defend its Constitution. Like Tom Drake and Ed Snowden, he was determined to preserve his integrity, his privacy, and his personal honor.
On both sides of the Atlantic we hear the mantra: “After 9/11/2001 EVERYTHING CHANGED;” just like “everything changed” after the burning of the Reichstag on 2/27/1933. That event led many Germans into what the writer Sebastian Haffner called “sheepish submissiveness” — with disastrous consequences.
As a young German lawyer in Berlin at the time, Haffner wrote in his diary one day after the Reichstag fire that Germans had suffered a nervous breakdown. “No one saw anything out of the ordinary in the fact that, from now on, one’s telephone would be tapped, one’s letters opened, and one’s desk might be broken into.”
What was missing, wrote Haffner, was “a solid inner kernel that cannot be shaken by external pressures and forces, something noble and steely, a reserve of pride, principle, and dignity to be drawn on in the hour or trial.”
We are grateful that these traits were NOT missing in Bill Binney. Nor were they missing in Edward Snowden, whose patriotic risk-taking opened the way for Bill and his colleagues to expose the collect-it-all fanatics and the damage they do to privacy everywhere.
What Ed Snowden called “turnkey tyranny” can still be prevented. But this can only happen, if patriots like Bill Binney can jolt enough people out of “sheepish submissiveness.” Goethe understood this 200 years ago when he warned, “No one is more a slave than he who thinks himself free, but is not.”
“Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich fÃ¼r frei hÃ¤lt, ohne es zu sein*.
Presented this 22nd day of January 2015 in Berlin by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.
In German: The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence AUSZEICHNUNG FUER INTEGRITAET, 2015: William Binney
Nehmen Sie bitte alle zur Kenntnis, dass hiermit William Binney mit dem traditionsgemaessen Sam Adams Corner-Brightener (Ecken beleuchtenden) Kerzenstaender ausgezeichnet wird, als symbolische Ehrung fuer Mr Binney’s Mut, auch dunkelste Ecken zu beleuchten.
Bill Binney repraesentiert die patriotische Seite eines Duells zwischen zwei ungleichen Gegnern: einem ueberaus maechtigen und ruecksichtslosen Staat auf der einen Seite und Bill, einem Beamten, der seinen Amtseid die Verfassung zu verteidigen nicht bricht. Wie Tom Drake und Edward Snowden war auch er entschlossen, seine Integritaet, Privatsphaere und persoenliche Ehre zu wahren.
Auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks hoeren wir das Mantra: “Nach 9/11 wurde alles anders;” genauso wie “alles auf einmal anders war” nachdem der Reichstag am 27. Februar 1933 brannte. Letzteres fuehrte viele Deutsche in etwas, was Sebastian Haffner einst als “schafsmaessige Ergebenheit” bezeichnete, mit schrecklichen Konsequenzen.
Haffner war damals ein junger Anwalt in Berlin, und er schrieb einen Tag nach dem Reichstags-Brand in sein Tagebuch, dass die Deutschen gerade “einen kollektiven Nervenzusammenbruch” erlitten haetten. “Keiner fand etwas Besonderes dabei, dass man in Zukunft seine Telefongespraeche belauschen, seine Briefe oeffnen und seinen Schreibtisch erbrechen durfte.”
Was fehlte, schrieb Haffner, war “ein fester Kern,” der nicht durch aeusseren Druck und Zwang erschuettert werden konnte. “Eine gewisse adlige Haerte, eine Reserve an Stolz, Gesinnung, Selbstgewissheit, Wuerde,” aus der man in Zeiten der Herausforderung schoepfen konnte.
Wir sind sehr dankbar, dass diese Eigenschaften Bill Binney nicht fehlten. Auch Edward Snowden zeigte sie reichlich, als seine patriotische Risikobereitschaft den Weg fuer Bill und seine Kollegen ebneten, damit sie den Schaden aufdecken konnten, den die Sammelwut der Fanatiker zur Folge hat, und beweisen konnten, dass die Privatsphaere ueberall gefaehrdet ist.
Was Ed Snowden als “Fertiggericht Tyrannei” (turnkey tyranny) bezeichnete, kann immer noch verhindert werden. Aber das kann nur passieren, wenn Patrioten wie Bill Binney genuegend Menschen aus der “schafsmaessigen Ergebenheit” aufwecken koennen. Goethe hat das schon vor 200 Jahren gewusst, als er gewarnt hat: “Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich fuer frei haelt, ohne es zu sein.”
- Januar 2015, Berlin
Roster of SAAII awardees:
1 — Coleen Rowley — 2002
2 — Katharine Gun — 2003
3 — Sibel Edmonds — 2004
4 — Craig Murray — 2005
5 — Sam Provance — 2006
6 –Frank Grevil — 2007
7 — Larry Wilkerson — 2009
8 — Julian Assange — 2010
9 — Thomas Drake — 2011
10 -Jesselyn Radack — 2011
11 -Thomas Fingar — 2012
12 Edward Snowden 2013
13 Chelsea Manning 2014
14 William Binney 2015
Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran CIA analyst and co-founder of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, acted as master of ceremonies for the Binney Berlin event.