NSA surveillance has been a hot topic ever since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the agency’s activities. But government employees were concerned about surveillance for a decade before Mr. Snowden came along.

Bill Binney, a former NSA Technical Leader for Intelligence, was hailed as one of the best analysts in NSA history for his expertise in intelligence and mathematics.

But he turned whistleblower in 2002 after the agency rejected his successful prototype wiretapping program ThinThread, which protected privacy by encrypting attributes that identified people, and filtering out and collecting only specifically targeted data.

The NSA instead pursued Trailblazer, a program that was meant to usher the NSA into “an era of effective and efficient digital network exploitation” by tracking cell phone calls and emails. Mr. Binney and several colleagues, however, believed that Trailblazer was fraudulent and wasteful, and indeed the program, which was several hundred million dollars over budget and years behind schedule, was shut down in 2006.

Thanks to Reddit, Mr. Binney finally got an opportunity to contribute to the conversation Mr. Snowden started in 2013. His AMA was equal parts crazy and controlled—while many of his answers were steeped in paranoia, others were more reserved.

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