NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The head of the National Security Agency offered a strong defense of his unit’s surveillance programs on Tuesday. He said plots to bomb New York City subways and the New York Stock Exchange were among more than 50 foiled worldwide.
It was an all-out charm offensive by Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, and representatives of the FBI and the Department of Justice to beat back concerns that our government is spying on us, tapping our phone lines and email accounts, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“These programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S. and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe, including preventing potential terrorist events over 50 times,” Gen. Alexander said.
It was an unusually candid attempt by the nation’s spymasters to convince the American public that big brother is not using sections of the Patriot Act to spy on them.
“Let me be very clear, Section 702 cannot be and is not used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen,” NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis said.
“The intentional and irresponsible release of classified information about these programs will have a long and irreversible impact on our nation’s security,” he said.
To prove the worth of the surveillance, officials said that among the 10 terrorist attacks foiled in the United States were plots to use backpacks to blow up the New York City subway system and another plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange.
“Several times in your testimony you referenced 9/11,” Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) said.
And under questioning by Long Island Rep. Peter King the officials said that had the spying programs been in place, the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks might have been prevented, because officials could have traced a call from 9/11 terrorist Khalid al-Mihdhar from San Diego to Yemen. Mihdhar was on Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon.
“If we had the data base that we have now we could have then tipped the FBI,” Gen. Alexander said.
Officials claim that in all of 2012 they used electronic surveillance on 300 people — total.
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