Today a collection of experts, including NSA Director General Keith Alexander, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Deputy FBI director Sean Joyce, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, testified on behalf of the controversial phone and email spying operations that were exposed by Edward Snowden earlier this month.
Today these experts justified the surveillance programs saying that they have classified documents that will prove that 50 terror plots have been averted thanks to the mass collecting of America’s phone metadata and emails.
The hearing, which took place before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, exposed four high profile terror plots and suspects from the last few years whose thwarting and incarcerations can, they claim, be attributed directly to information gathered in the controversial surveillance programs.
Deputy Director of the FBI Sean Joyce spoke about these four cases:
Plot to Bomb NYC Subway
The first was the case of Najibullah Zazi . Zazi was arrested in 2009 after the FBI followed him to New York City with bomb making equipment and a plan to bomb the city’s subway system using explosive backpacks. Zazi was exposed, as CNN told us back in 2010, through emails he was sending back in forth to Pakistan that openly discussed bomb making recipes and techniques. Phone numbers taken through phone surveillance then led to co-conspirators. Joyce claimed today that this information was procured through the now-controversial email surveillance program exposed by Snowden.
Plot to Bomb New York Stock Exchange
While monitoring the phones of a known terrorist in Yemen, the NSA discovered contact with Khalid Ouazzani, who currently resided in Kansas City, Missouri. Joyce said that with increased and warranted surveillance, the NSA was able to expose a plot to bomb the New York City Stock Exchange. Ouazzani pleaded guilty to financially aiding the terrorists and faces 65 years in prison without parole and a fine of up to $1 million.
Mumbai Attacks & Danish Newspaper Plot
According to Joyce, David Headley was also exposed by NSA surveillance programs. Headley was an American from Chicago implicated not only in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, but also an unfulfilled plot to attack the headquarters of the Danish newspaper responsible for printing a cartoon featuring a depiction of the prophet Mohammed.
The Mystery Case
The final case Joyce sighted as justification for mass surveillance is clearly still classified as he only spoke in broad terms.
Lastly, the fbi had opened up an investigation shortly after 9/11. We did not have enough information nor did we find links to terrorism so we shortly thereafter closed the investigation. However the NSA using the business record FISA tipped us off that this individual had indirect contact with a known terrorist over seas. We were able to reopen this investigation, identify addition individuals for the legal process, and were able to disrupt this terrorist activity.
There is no word yet on which case his final scenario was referencing, or if any of the other 46 terror plots averted thanks to these surveillance programs will ever be made public.
The Guardian hosted a live Q&A with Edward Snowden. In it he fielded questions on China, the NSA listening to phone calls, and spying on popular websites.Click here to read more