The United States government’s surveillance program helped prevent over 50 terrorist attacks in more than 20 countries including a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), according an official from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during a hearing conducted by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
Sean Joyce, deputy director of the FBI testified that a secret government surveillance of communications between a person in Kansas City and a known al-Qaeda extremist in Yemen enabled the agency to “detect a nascent plot” to bomb the stock exchange, and arrest the individuals involved.
Joyce said FBI agents arrested Khalid Ouazzani, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Morocco. He pleaded guilty for providing significant information to terrorists in a federal court in Kansas City in May 2010. Joyce told lawmakers that the jury considered the plot serious because the individuals involved were convicted.
Bloomberg’s Timothy R. Homan & Chris Strohm cited a comment from Robin Fowler, the lawyer representing Ouazanni who countered the statement of the FBI deputy director. Fowler pointed out that his client “was not involved in any plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.”
Joyce also cited a second incident wherein the FBI didn’t find any terrorist connection towards a certain individual in its initial investigation. However, when the National Security Agency (NSA) provided a telephone number in San Diego that had indirect contact with an extremist outside the country, authorities were able to prevent the person from giving financial support to an organization abroad that was identified as terrorist by the United States.
NSA Director On Sept. 11 Attack:
General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA also told lawmakers during the hearing that the intelligence community managed to “connect the dots and prevented more terrorist attacks” by working with businesses and using phone and internet surveillance tools. He also emphasized the September 11 attack was not prevented because the government failed to connect the dots.
The House Intelligence Committee is conducting an investigation after Edward Snowden, a 29-year old former employee of the CIA and a technology contractor working for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corporation (NYSE:BAH), disclosed information that the NSA has a program focused on collecting data on telephone and internet communications. The government, particularly the FBI and NSI, had been collecting data since October of 2001.
In an interview with the Guardian, Snowden said that he made the disclosure because he doesn’t want to live in a society that practices such activities. He provided highly classified materials to Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald.
Maryland Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger said, “This widespread leak by a 29-year-old American systems administrator put our country and our allies in danger by giving the terrorists a really good look at the playbook that we use to protect our country."
During the hearing, NSA deputy director, John Chris Inglis said the agency approved the inquiries on less than 300 telephone numbers last year.
According to Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, the phone has no names and addresses and it is used by authorities used it “very sparingly.”
The NSA will submit documents to the House and Intelligence Committees regarding more than 50 potential terrorist attacks prevented by its surveillance programs since the September 11, 2001. The documents will provide a clear description of the events.
Alexander emphasized to members of the intelligence committee that the administration, the court, and Congress approved the NSA surveillance programs. He said, “The people who are skeptical of the program have no understanding of what the program is.” According to Alexander, lawmakers should be cautious about providing comments until they have a full understanding of the extent and limitations of the programs.