USA TODAYNational Security Agency Director Keith Alexander told a House
committee Tuesday that more than 50 terror threats throughout the world
have been disrupted with the assistance of two secret surveillance
programs that were recently disclosed by former defense contractor
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
More than 10 of the plots targeted the U.S.
homeland, Alexander told the House Intelligence Committee, including a
plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange.
"I would much rather
be here today debating this,'' Alexander told lawmakers, referring to
the programs' value, "than explaining why we were unable to prevent
another 9/11'' attack.
At the rare open committee hearing, Alexander and Deputy Attorney
General Jim Cole told lawmakers that both surveillance operations — a
domestic telephone tracking system that collects records of millions of
Americans and an Internet monitoring program targeting non-citizens
outside the U.S. — have been subject to rigorous oversight to guard
against privacy abuses.
"This isn't some rogue operation that some guys at the NSA are operating,'' said Alexander, also an Army general.
FBI Director Sean Joyce described another threat Tuesday that was
neutralized by the surveillance programs: Investigators used the phone
tracking system to identify an operative in San Diego who was providing
support to terrorists in Somalia.
Joyce also referred to two
disrupted plots that were disclosed last week as having been thwarted by
the surveillance operations, including a 2009 plan to bomb the New York
In that case, authorities used its Internet
monitoring program to identify overseas communications involving
Najibullah Zazi in Colorado, who was later convicted in connection with
the subway attack plan.
"This is not a program that is off the
books,'' Cole said, outlining the executive, legislative and judicial
controls attached to both surveillance operations.
In the plot
against the stock exchange, Joyce said investigators identified a former
New York accountant working with contacts in Yemen who were in the
early stages of planning an assault against the exchange.
Joyce did not name the man. In court documents, however, he is
identified as Sabirhan Hasanoff, 37, who pleaded guilty last year to
providing support to al-Qaeda. Hasanoff was not charged in a plot
against the stock exchange, but prosecutors, while arguing for a harsh
prison sentence, alleged in court documents that Hasanoff "cased the New
York Stock Exchange'' at the direction of a senior terror leader in
Prosecutors allege that Hasanoff was working with two
operatives in Yemen--known by their aliases as "Suffian'' and "The
Hasanoff, according to the prosecutors, prepared a
"rudimentary'' surveillance report on the alleged target and
transmitted it back to the Yemen operatives.
stock exchange surveillance, the prosecutors argued that Hasanoff is a
"terrible candidate for this court's mercy.''
Hasanoff's attorney was not immediately available for comment.
raised few questions about the intelligence officials' authority to
conduct the operations, despite the heated national privacy debate that
was prompted by Snowden's disclosures.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the panel's chairman, said the programs were "designed'' to protect Americans.
can wane when faced with so many inaccuracies,'' Rogers said, noting
the "mis-perceptions'' about the surveillance operations caused by
"wrong'' news reports.
Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the
committee's ranking Democrat, said Snowden's unauthorized disclosures
"put our country and allies in danger.''
"We need to seal this crack in the system,'' Ruppersberger said.
said intelligence officials have "significant concerns'' about the
access to such sensitive information. He said about 1,000 so-called
system administrators have access similar to Snowden. And a majority,
like Snowden, are contractors.
"We do have significant concerns in this area and it is something we need to look at,'' Alexander said.
said a criminal investigation into Snowden's disclosures is continuing.
Asked what he expected to result from that inquiry, Joyce offered a