NSA Claim of Thwarted NYSE Plot Contradicted by Court Documents

On August 7, Hasanoff wrote in an email to his al Qaeda coordinator in Yemen, intercepted by the government, "I have visited the tourist locations you asked me about and will report to you after two weeks in detail."

The FBI report says the al Qaeda leader "was not satisfied with the report, and he accordingly disposed of it. (The report apparently lacked sufficient detail about New York Stock Exchange security matters to be as helpful as the Doctor had hoped.)"

The attorney for Hasanoff, David Rhunke, said the idea that the FBI and the NSA would use the alleged plot to justify the surveillance programs is "almost silly."

In his plea to the court ahead of sentencing, Hasanoff said "he deliberately provided nothing beyond what anyone could have learned from Google Earth, a tourist map or brochure." He said there was "no further discussion of surveillance of the NYSE or any other tourist sites after August 2008."

Yet, FBI deputy director Joyce repeatedly cited the case in defending the controversial electronic surveillance. "I sit before you today, humbly, to say these tools have helped us," he said.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, testified, "The information gathered from these programs provided the US government with critical leads to help prevent over fifty potential terrorist events in more than 20 countries around the world."

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