Yet Another Claim Of How NSA Surveillance 'Saved Us' From Terrorists Falls Apart Under Scrutiny

from the keep-trying-guys dept

As NSA apologists in the government seek to defend the NSA surveillance program, they keep talking about how critical it was to stopping “more than 50” terrorist operations. However, every time they’ve described any, the details have shown that the surveillance programs often had little to do with uncovering the plot, and were clearly not a key component of stopping anything. We already discussed the NYC subway bombing plot, which was discovered through other means. The other story initially raised, concerning David Headly was similarly found to be on shaky ground as well.

At the hearings this week, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce claimed that the programs were helpful in stopping a plan to bomb the NY Stock Exchange, saying that the program helped find and capture the planners “in the very initial stages,” implying that this was before any damage was done. When questioned just how “serious” the plot was, Joyce claimed: “I think the jury considered it serious, since they were all convicted.” Ah, well, convictions are public and people went looking, and now it appears that this story is rapidly falling apart as well. The case in question was about Sabirhan Hasanoff and Wesam El-Hanafi, both of whom pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism. But nothing in the case had to do with bombing the stock exchange. The idea that the jury convicted them of such caught those involved in the case by surprise:

Joshua L. Dratel, a lawyer for Mr. Hasanoff, called Mr. Joyce’s portrayal “astonishing” because none of the defendants was charged with the stock exchange allegation and there was no jury trial in any of the cases.

And, now it’s come out that the “threat” to the stock exchange never really existed. The people involved did explore the idea, but gave it up on their own well before doing any serious planning, and, of course, the charges against them had nothing to do with that. In other words, while these guys may have supported terrorism, they didn’t have any actual plot to bomb the stock exchange, there was no risk, no lives were saved, and they were not convicted of any such plot. So, no, the programs didn’t save any lives here either.

You’d think that the NSA and the FBI would be trotting out the good examples first. If this is the best they have…

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Comments on “Yet Another Claim Of How NSA Surveillance 'Saved Us' From Terrorists Falls Apart Under Scrutiny”

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Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It took the CIA, with all its data (including the NSA, FBI and other agencies and governments), with all its analysts and with all its agents and informants, over 10 years to locate Osama Bin Laden.

And the NSA (and the FBI) want you to believe that they ‘sifted’ through a bunch of material, connected the dots lickety-split and thwarted 50 terrorist plots.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s actually worse than that. Donald Rumsfeld was given Osama Bin Laden on a silver platter and refused to take him.

The guy was in Pakistan as a regular citizen while we were fighting two wars that cost us trillions and a number of lives for oil!

We didn’t NEED the surveillance and it wasn’t a priority with Bush. Yet here we are, dealing with the fallout of two wars and the need for constant surveillance tolling a death knell as we have no more terrorists to fight besides home grown protestors to the status quo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It took the CIA, with all its data (including the NSA, FBI and other agencies and governments), with all its analysts and with all its agents and informants, over 10 years to locate Osama Bin Laden.

BUT IT DID FIND HIM !!.. so where does that leave your argument ?? Really, saying it found then even after 10 years means the Government will/can say the system is required.

+1 NSA, +0 for TD

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I never said that data analysis isn’t required. Just that it took a very long time – and a lot of human intervention – to find Bin Laden.

But now with some shiny new computer program and with little human intervention, the NSA is able to foil 50 terrorist plots. Meanwhile, not a single agency was able to connect the dots with the Boston Marathon bombers, even when a foreign agency noted they had some concerns.

Shouldn’t this wonderful system picked up that, hmmm, the Russians seem really interested in these guys, maybe I, the NSA superprogram with all this data, should pay attention to the ones and zeros and see what I can do for the security and safety of America?

Anonymous Coward says:

when you’ve done something that on discovery, drops you in the shit, the only way to defend yourself is to spout more and more shit! the spying has done nothing as far as saving any lives is concerned, it has done nothing as far as defeating any plots or even discovering any that were about to or already up and running. this is nothing but pure bull shit and out and out lies! they would have been far better off keeping quiet, apologising to the people everywhere, not just in the USA and keeping their heads down for a while until it all blew over. as long as they didn’t try anything similar again, the people would have gradually forgotten all about the way they have been taken for a ride, spied on and been accused of wrong doing, on the say so of a bunch of liars!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Having fallen face-first into the muck, it might be well for government functionaries who attempt public acts of retroactive damage control to remind themselves that an engaged pubic has a much greater aggregate IQ and breadth of insight than do a few gullible/grandstanding committee-bureaucrats who weren’t selected for their astuteness in the first place, and who can be readily misled by audience-targeted, easily-swallowed pablum that fits the facts-as-presented.

Aztecian says:

Criteria for Plot Foiling Credit

So the way I see it, if something almost happened but didn’t, and the NSA was collecting information on it, then it goes on the list as “Foiled by the NSA”.

Since they are evidently collecting all information about anything from anywhere, that means they are foiling everything that is foiled.

But doesn’t that mean if something DOES happen the NSA FAILED to FOIL?

There is stuff happening all the time! Something should be done about all this shoddy plot foiling with our tax dollars!

Anonymous Coward says:

Two things jar with each other.

1) It is ok to lie about national security to those without the needed security clearance.

2) The NSA operations are transparent. (to whom? The FISA rubber stamp court?) No one is actually guarding the privacy of US citizens.

This whole business stinks. The only ones trying to justify it are those who benefit from the spying going on. What no one is doing is coming clean with what is going on. These reasons being given are one more sign of not being truthful with the American public and trying to continue with business as usual. Scare the public with the boogy man and say big brother is here to protect you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Did I say 50? I meant 100. No wait, 500. We stopped a thousand terrorist plots already.
Without the NSA secret surveillance we wouldn’t have stopped those two thousand terrorist plots.
So remember folks, if we’re not allowed to watch you everywhere all the time without oversight, those three thousand terrorist plots we stopped could have happened to you! Stopping thousands of terrorist plots every day isn’t easy and we need your cooperation in harvesting your personal data.
Hell, we’re stopping terrorist plots all the time. I just stopped one right while typing this.

Anonymous Coward says:

The people involved did explore the idea, but gave it up on their own well before doing any serious planning,

probably because they considered the level of security and surveillance too high to warrant the risk.

It can be clamed, then that NSA monitoring, and the increased security in general stopped these people (and probably others) from considering these types of crimes.

Job done, one for NSA, zero for TD

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

probably because they considered the level of security and surveillance too high to warrant the risk.

Which would mean that they were aware of the formerly secret NSA programs. Which would mean that Snowden didn’t reveal anything that Joe Random Terrorist didn’t already know. Which would mean that the only people who were ignorant of these secret programs were the American people. Which would mean that Snowden is unambiguously a legitimate whistle-blower in any sense of the term. Which would mean that Snowden is a patriot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

People shooting themselves in the head prevents terrorist acts. I know, because people have shot themselves in the head during the times when 50 terrorist acts were prevented, so it must be true.

darryl – who, being an Australian, has absolutely no fucking idea what he’s going on about American policy for – should support this continuing of his superior logic by shooting himself in the head.

Don’t worry, mate. Not even the solar panels will miss you.

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