Stephen Baldwin, who spent his youth in the Soviet Union, is a man whose life is being used to justify a program that the US government has declared to be a “critical threat” to national security.
Baldwin’s story has long been used by government officials and some privacy advocates as a justification for surveillance and the surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency.
His testimony is the subject of a new documentary, which premiered on PBS’ Frontline series.
The film focuses on the man who was recruited by the NSA to create a digital version of Baldwin’s entire life story, which he called “a living testimony to the threat that the NSA poses to the world.”
“I believe it was the NSA that convinced me to sign my life over,” Baldwin told Frontline host and author Tom Ashbrook.
“I would say, ‘You have to understand, I am a man who is going to tell you all of this, but the NSA has got to know about it.
“They said, ‘It’s important to keep it quiet, so they don’t find out what you are doing.’ “
But they never told me,” he continued.
“At the time, it was a bit of a gamble, because at that time there were a lot of young people, and they didn, in fact, try to kill me, but they didn [know] I was in it,” he said. “
Baldwin said that he had been approached by the intelligence community in 1984 to produce a digital file on him, which would be passed to the government in order to “make sure that they didn’t get their hands on it.
“At the time, it was a bit of a gamble, because at that time there were a lot of young people, and they didn, in fact, try to kill me, but they didn [know] I was in it,” he said.
“And I didn’t want to be killed.”
According to the documentary, the NSA also enlisted the help of a friend of Baldwin, a man named George Smith.
Smith was recruited into the agency in 1985 as part of a covert operation to “recruit” a former Soviet spy who had been working in the United States and was willing to give up his secrets.
“He said, I’m going to help you with the material you have,” Smith told Baldwin in the documentary.
“It’s really a big deal, because the whole point is to take the information that the Soviets stole from us and put it into a foreign country, and I will help you do that.”
The film then tells the story of how the NSA recruited Smith and his company, Strategic Intelligence Systems, to provide the agency with the materials it needed to obtain the digital files.
Smith, however, would not agree to do so.
“You are in a position to know what you know, but I don’t know,” Smith said in a recorded message to the agency.
“The whole idea that we are going down this road, which you’re talking about, is very dangerous.”
In 2007, the government formally acknowledged that the material had been stolen and released a public apology for the actions of the government’s contractors.
“When I started this company, I knew it was illegal to steal,” Smith wrote in an e-mail to the Washington Post.
“There are no secrets in this world.
There is only information.
The way to do this was to steal.”
“If I hadn’t gone to the FBI, and had kept my mouth shut, they would never have known,” Smith continued.
The NSA was forced to reveal that the files were stolen in 2006, and in 2014, the FBI and other federal agencies started an investigation into whether Smith was a traitor.
Smith’s company, which was also contracted to produce the files, was eventually indicted by the FBI in July 2015, and was convicted of criminal breach of trust.
After the conviction, the Department of Justice, which oversees the NSA, announced that it would no longer pay Smith’s companies for his services.
Smith died in February 2016.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and two children.
The documentary, Frontline: Stephen Baldwin on the Trail of NSA Spy Lies, was produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The series premiered on Frontline on October 13, 2017.
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