William (Bill) Binney is a former NSA crypto-mathematician, and J. Kirk Wiebe is a former NSA senior analyst who was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award, NSA’s second highest distinction. They both worked in the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (SARC), and served in the NSA for decades. As Technical Director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney mentored some 6000 technical analysts that eavesdropped on foreign nations, collecting private phone calls and emails for NSA databases.
However, with the expansion of the Internet during the 1990s and the explosion of communications that went with it, it quickly became clear that NSA could not keep up with, and effectively analyze, all the new data available. Working in the SARC, Binney and Wiebe both realized this was a dangerous vulnerability for NSA and the country.
In response, Binney and his team (of which Wiebe was a member), created a program – ThinThread – that could effectively isolate and streamline data in the new Information Age. More importantly, it could filter out all types of irrelevant data, thus eliminating the need to forward and store large amounts of information for subsequent analysis. To ensure the privacy rights of American citizens were adequately protected, Binney and his team installed an “anonymizing” feature to ensure Fourth Amendment protections for the communications of U.S. citizens.