10/16/2013
by Kevin Ryan

Earlier this month, National Security Agency (NSA) head Keith Alexander admitted that he had lied to the U.S. Congress and the American people in an attempt to justify the NSA’s growing surveillance of U.S. citizens.[1] In June, while attempting to defend the secret NSA programs revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Alexander claimed that over 50 terrorist plots had been thwarted though collection of the phone and internet records of American citizens. Alexander said that his agency had provided Congress with 54 specific cases in which the programs helped disrupt terror plots in the U.S. and around the world.[2]

Just a few weeks before the “54 plots” claim, Alexander had testified to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee that NSA spying on American citizens had played a critical role in thwarting “dozens” of terrorist attacks.[3] Alexander spent the next three months declaring that the NSA’s spying on Americans was preventing terrorism and another 9/11.

None of that was true as we found out a few weeks ago. Of the 54 alleged plots, only one or two were identified as a result of bulk phone record collection, according to Alexander’s most recent comments. That number has since been whittled down to just one incident that wasn’t a terrorist plot at all but was a case of a cab driver sending cash to an alleged terrorist organization.[4] Bottom line ― the NSA spying on Americans has not stopped any terrorist plots, let alone dozens or 54.

Alexander’s lies followed closely after National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s lie, or as he called it ― his “least most untruthful statement” ― that the NSA was not even collecting information on large number of Americans citizens. In March, Clapper appeared before Congress and was asked “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No, sir.” Clapper’s blatant lie was premeditated. Senator Ron Wyden’s office had sent him the question the day before the hearing.[5]

Overlooking these unprosecuted felonies, the idea that the NSA programs prevent terrorism is absurd given NSA’s knowledge about previous terrorist suspects. Although the Bush and Obama administrations have claimed for more than a decade that spying on Americans was justified by 9/11, the intelligence the NSA had prior to 9/11 was enough to stop the attacks. Three examples help to demonstrate this fact.

On March 7, 2001, during trial proceedings for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, an FBI agent read aloud in court a phone number that had been used by alleged al Qaeda plotters to plan and execute the embassy attacks.[6] This was the phone number of the “Yemen Hub,” which doubled as the home phone of Ahmed Al-Hada, the father-in-law of alleged 9/11 hijacker Khalid Al-Mihdhar. According to U.S. officials, the same phone was used for planning the USS Cole bombing and, later, the 9/11 attacks. The phone number was also published in the British weekly the Observer, just five weeks before 9/11. As author Kevin Fenton wrote: “Any of the Observer’s readers could have called the number and asked for a message to be forwarded to Osama bin Laden.”[7] This widely reported FBI gaffe should have alerted al Qaeda to U.S. knowledge of its secret Yemen operations center while also ensuring that anyone listening would know the exact al Qaeda phone number being monitored by the NSA. Despite this major tip-off, al Qaeda continued to use the phone to contact the alleged 9/11 hijackers until “only weeks before 9/11.”[8]

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