By Gregory Crofton
A GOOD AMERICAN has a lousy title but it is a polished documentary about “Thin Thread,” an extremely effective U.S. intelligence tool pushed aside by top government officials in the crucial days before the terror attacks of 9/11.
“Thin Thread” was built by William Binney, a brilliant data decoder at National Security Agency, who put it together for little money and kept it relatively under wraps at the agency. But when Gen. Michael Hayden took the reins as director at NSA (1999 to 2005), he decided to shelve “Thin Thread” in favor of spending billions to outsource the work and construct another intelligence collection system called “Trailblazer.”
It failed miserably and was a huge waste of taxpayer money. But in the aftermath of 9/11, NSA pulled “Thin Thread” back off the shelf and put it to use — albeit stripped of the civil rights protections Binney had insisted on — using it to trace the phone calls of American citizens.
Some point after Binney resigned from the NSA in protest, members of his former team were able to plug 9/11-related U.S. intelligence data into “Thin Thread.” It performed well, threading together collected intelligence to produce previously unknown information about the 9/11 attacks.
“We would have caught the people,” says Diane Roark, who served as a top staff member who oversaw NSA operations for the House Intelligence Committee from 1985 to 2002. “9/11 would have been avoided.”
Reports generated by “Thin Thread” also indicated that the 9/11 attacks were meant to be an even larger scale operation than what transpired that day.
A GOOD AMERICAN, which recently screened at the Nashville Film Festival, isn’t boring, but be warned it may test your patience with its deliberate pace. It is the second full-length documentary from director Friedrich Moser, a filmmaker based in Austria. Moser also made THE BRUSSELS BUSINESS (2012), a film that looks at the political elite of the European Union.
For information about where the A GOOD AMERICAN will screen next, visit the film’s website here.