No, NSA Spying Did NOT Prevent a Terror Attack on Wall Street

NSA Grasps at Straws

In response to the revelation that the NSA has been illegally spying on all Americans for more than a decade, NSA chief General Keith Alexander claimed that the spying prevented a terrorist attack on Wall Street and the New York subway.

There’s only one problem: the claim is completely false.

The Christian Science Monitor notes today:

According to officials at the House Intelligence hearing, this plan was caught when the NSA was using its Internet intercept authority to monitor the communications of a known extremist in Yemen.

This suspect, in turn, was in contact with an individual in the United States named Khalid Ouazzani. Thus warned, the FBI investigated Mr. Ouazzani through traditional law enforcement methods, and discovered a burgeoning plot to bomb the NYSE.

“Ouazzani had been providing information and support to this plot,” FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce told lawmakers.

However, Mr. Ouazzani pleaded guilty to providing material support – in his case, money – to Al Qaeda, not to terror planning. His May 2010 plea agreement makes no mention of anything related to the New York Stock Exchange, or any bomb plot, notes David Kravets in Wired magazine.

Plus, Ouazzani’s defense attorney said Tuesday the stock market allegation was news to him.

Khalid Ouazzani was not involved in any plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange,” attorney Robin Fowler told Wired.

How much did this bad guy give Al Qaeda? $23,000 total.

The other publicly-discussed disrupted terror plot – on the New York subway – was also not really due to government’s overbroad spying program.

The Associated Press reports:

Little was offered to substantiate claims that the programs have been successful in stopping acts of terrorism that would not have been caught with narrower surveillance. In the New York subway bombing case, President Barack Obama conceded the would-be bomber might have been caught with less sweeping surveillance.

The Christian Science Monitor notes of the New York subway case:

As to the New York subway plot, it was discovered not by analysis of vast amounts of Internet data of foreign users, but rather by old-fashioned police work, according to The Guardian ….

In addition, the Guardian pointed out:

Lawyers and intelligence experts with direct knowledge of two intercepted terrorist plots that the Obama administration says confirm the value of the NSA’s vast data-mining activities have questioned whether the surveillance sweeps played a significant role ….

Indeed, top security experts say that mass surveillance does not help keep us safe.

Glenn Greenwald notes:

This is just the same playbook that U.S. government officials have been using for the last five decades whenever anything gets done that brings small amounts of transparency to the bad conduct that they do in the dark. They immediately accuse those who brought that transparency of jeopardizing national security. They try and scare the American public into believing that they’ve been placed at risk and that the only way they can stay safe is to trust the people in power to do whatever it is they want to do without any kinds of constraints, accountability or light of any kind.

Postscript: Mr. Ouazzani giving $23,000 to Al Qaeda is indeed a crime. He supported Al Qaeda, and was rightly prosecuted and convicted for that crime. But given that the American government has been providing arms, money and logistical support to Al Qaeda in Syria, Libya, Mali, Bosnia and other countries – and related Muslim terrorists in Chechnya, Iran, and many other countries – Mr. Ouazzani’s support for terrorism seems rather small in comparison.

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  • lambert

    You’d think they could come up with a better lie. Is this really the best they have?

  • BoostedSRT

    the lie is they stopped a bombing at a place most people hate anyway, lol….wall street, what useless bottom feeders. (and no NSA I’m not violent, fucking losers)

  • ThoughtCriminal

    The American public is so dumb now that this lie is pointless. They don’t even know what the NSA is, or the difference between tyranny and a free country. No clue. All they know is the crap on television, and I mean it when I say crap too. Most don’t know proper grammar, how to read real literature, or do math. They’ve never been exposed to the logical fallacies. So, again, the government doesn’t even really need to lie. I guess that’s for the hundred or so American’s who are still with it (that will get you on the list). The government could come out and admit they’re doing all this with plans to put cameras in our homes, and no one would blink. They would just grab their 64oz fountain coke, and continue to channel surf through mind numbing programs.

    • Sean Gundlach

      I’m one of that “hundred or so” who use proper grammar and couldn’t help but notice that you’ve made at least three errors yourself in that paragraph.

      • anotherangryamerican

        You know something? I am sick of you people with your wah,wah you spelled something wrong or your grammar wasn’t perfect or some other BS!!! Stop shooting the messenger.

  • TruthandFreedom

    Guess what NSA you don’t trump the 4th Amendment!!! You don’t need collect every bit of information on every single American to find a terrorist!!! Just for you to imply that means you’re a complete moron and should be removed due to incompetence! I worked Signal Intell for 16 years, and currentlly have an inactive TS/SCI security clearance so I do know what I am talking about! You record and decipher foreign intelligence and if there is a call from or to that number you are monitoring shows to be an american then you get a warrant specific to that number… NOT EVERY SINGLE NUMBER WITHIN THE UNITED STATES!

    Likewise, how about getting rid of the 20+ and growing Terrorist cells in the US? Is that too hard for you? How about dealing with the Mosques that are involved with radicalized muslims…. FBI has plenty data…. yet you refuse to deal with these terrorists!


    If you have trouble finding these muslim terror cells, i’ll gladly accept 100k and some specified equipment and give you geo locations to within 10 meters of them!!! This isn’t hard you just have to pull your heads out of your asses and stop making love with the enemy!!!

    • civoc

      Brigitte Gabriel has a long list available. what else?

    • jeff

      What you say is true and the Fort Hood shooter is a good example. He was in contact with a known terrorist right under the govs nose and they missed it. He was even a muslim and maybe they should have been watching him instead of the millions of non-muslims they were watching.

  • zorbo

    I’m not sure, and correct me if I am wrong, but I kind of remember that this spying thing did not prevent Newtown or Boston.

  • mi5edtodeath

    “and related Muslim terrorists in Chechnya, Iran, and many other countries…”

    So if a Muslim picks up a gun, he is automatically a “terrorist”?

    The truth is that the American-Israelo axis are the real terrorists.

  • gozounlimited