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Secret government phone record collection credited with disrupting N.Y. attack

By Kimberly Dozier

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:10 p.m. HST, Jun 08, 2013

WASHINGTON >> The government's broad programs to collect U.S. phone records and Internet traffic helped disrupt a 2009 plot to bomb the New York City subways, a senior U.S. intelligence official said.

But the assertion raises as many questions as it answers because court testimony indicated the subway plot investigation began with an email.

Over the past days, The Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post have revealed classified documents showing how the National Security Agency sweeps up phone records and Internet data in its hunt for terrorists. Those programs have come under criticism from civil libertarians and some in Congress who say they were too broad and collected too much about innocent Americans.

In one of those programs, the NSA's collected daily records of millions of phone calls made and received by U.S. citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing.

On Thursday, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who leads the House Intelligence Committee, credited that effort with thwarting a terrorism plot. But he did not elaborate.

The senior U.S. intelligence official who asserted Friday that the phone records program together with other technical intercepts thwarted the subway plot would not provide other details. The official was not authorized to discuss the plot publicly and requested anonymity.

Afghan-American Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty in the 2009 plot, saying he had been recruited by al-Qaida in Pakistan.

The break in that case came, according to court documents and testimony, when Zazi emailed a Yahoo address seeking help with his bomb recipe.

At that time, British intelligence officials knew the Yahoo address was associated with an al-Qaida leader in Pakistan. That's because, according to British government documents released in 2010, officials had discovered it on the computer of a terror suspect there months earlier.

Because the NSA and British intelligence work so closely together and so little is known about how the NSA monitors email traffic, it's possible that both agencies were monitoring the Yahoo address at the time Zazi sent the critical email in 2009.

What's unclear, though, is how the phone program aided the investigation, which utilized court-authorized wiretaps of Zazi and his friends.

Based on what's known about the phone-records program, the NSA might have had an archive of all the phone calls Zazi had made, which might have helped authorities look for possible co-conspirators.

Because the phone program remains classified, however, it's impossible to say with certainty how the program benefited the investigation.

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daniwitz13 wrote:
They are so secret even they don't know anything about it. basically they are Clueless. They basically seek out (profile) people with those hard to pronounce names, have dark color skin and a beard. The usual mode of operation is to have an undercover Agent befriend them by not only agreeing with them but inciting them to further their dislike of the US. Then it is a matter of furnishing materials that they could never obtain (govt. warehouses are full of it) Aid an abet them as much as they can, giving them money so that "they" make the purchase, provide them with a bomb that cannot work, provide a triggering device that does nothing, then arrest them for having and using everything provided by them the Govt. It works every time without fail. The Jury falls for it hook line and sinker in every case. But wait, there's more. Because Nothing happens, there is no real proof for the Govt. but they have a plan. First tell him that his conspiracy (you know, talking to friends) is a Life sentence. Then offer a plea deal. (works all the time) Life in prison or plead GUILTY and we give you (although innocent) only 15 years in prison.. This is a no-brainer, he will plead Guilty for self preservation. This should be called injustice 101 but who's looking. Pity.
on June 8,2013 | 01:09PM
SteveToo wrote:
Sounds like a good plan to me. PROFILING works quite well. Hope they keep doing it till "they" are all in jail or sent "home".
on June 8,2013 | 02:20PM
bsdetection wrote:
In fact, profiling does NOT work. Jose Padilla (dirty bomb suspect: Hispanic. Richard Reid (shoe bomber): British w/Jamaican father. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab (underwear bomber): Nigerian. Timothy McVeigh: white American. Boston Marathon bombers: Chechen. Profiling based on race, religion, country of origin, etc. doesn't work.
on June 8,2013 | 04:55PM
rrkriete wrote:
My guess is that the govt. is just saying the phone records helped to justify the telephone spying program.
on June 8,2013 | 01:44PM
bsdetection wrote:
This is a bogus claim. The NYC subway attack was stopped because British police found the plans on a laptop they seized.
on June 8,2013 | 04:44PM
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