NSA Chief: Surveillance
Stopped More Than 50 Terror Plots
By Nick Simeone, American Forces
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– June 18, 2013 – The director of the National Security Agency told Congress
today more than 50 terrorist plots worldwide have been prevented since the 9/11
attacks through the classified surveillance programs the government uses to
gather phone and Internet data, programs he said are legal and do not compromise
the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.
Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who also commands U.S. Cyber Command, told the
House Intelligence Committee he plans as early as tomorrow to provide lawmakers
with classified details about the plots that were foiled in an effort to show
how valuable the programs are to national security.
Alexander and other senior U.S. officials were called to testify in response to
unauthorized disclosures to the media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden,
who revealed details about the agency’s gathering of telephone numbers and the
monitoring of Internet activity by foreigners overseas, leaks that Alexander
said have caused irreversible and significant damage to the security of the
United States and its allies.
Testifying alongside Alexander, Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce discussed two
terrorist plots that he said the surveillance programs helped to prevent. In
one, emails intercepted from a terrorist in Pakistan helped to stop a plot to
bomb New York City’s subway system. Another involved a failed attempt by a known
extremist in Yemen who conspired with a suspect in the United States to target
the New York Stock Exchange. Both cases led to arrests and convictions, Joyce
“These programs are immensely valuable for protecting our nation and the
security of our allies,” Alexander said, and added that they may have helped to
prevent the 9/11 attacks themselves if the government had the legal authority,
as granted by the Patriot Act, to use them at the time.
The disclosure of the NSA programs has generated a nationwide debate over what
techniques the government can legally use to monitor phone and Internet data to
prevent terrorism without violating the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.
Alexander and other senior U.S officials emphasized that the gathering of phone
numbers that already are being collected by service providers as well as the
tracking of U.S-based Internet servers used by foreigners are legal and
repeatedly have been approved by the courts and Congress.
“These programs are limited, focused and subject to rigorous oversight,” and
their disciplined operation “protects the privacy and civil liberties of the
American people,” Alexander said.
The details of the foiled terror plots that he plans to provide to Congress will
remove any doubt about the usefulness of the surveillance in keeping the
homeland safe, the NSA director told the House panel.
“In the 12 years since the attacks on Sept. 11, we have lived in relative safety
and security as a nation,” he said. “That security is a direct result of the
intelligence community’s quiet efforts to better connect the dots and learn from
the mistakes that permitted those attacks.”
To prevent another damaging leak such as the breach caused by Snowden’s
disclosures, Alexander told lawmakers, the NSA is looking into where security
may have broken down and for ways to provide greater oversight for the roughly
1,000 system administrators at NSA who have access to top secret information.
Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander
National Security Agency
See also :
NSA head: Surveillance helped thwart more than 50 terror plots (Washington
Post, June 18, 2013).