Phone Spying Prevented NYC Subway Attack: Sources

When House intel chief said phone records foiled terrorist attack, this is what he meant

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 8, 2013 2:01 PM CDT

(Newser) – On Thursday, Rep. Mike Rogers defended the NSA's phone and Internet snooping program with the claim that, "Within the last few years, this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States." Now we (likely) know which one he meant: The 2009 subway bombing plot by Najibullah Zazi. US government sources have confirmed that this was the attack to which Rogers was referring, Reuters reports.

The connection between the NSA program and the subway plot was first reported by CBS News correspondent John Miller, who is a former national Intelligence and FBI official. He told CBS on Friday:

  • "So on September 6, 2009, around dawn, an e-mail comes from an IP address to another IP address. One of them is nothing we're paying attention to. The other is one that's been flagged as an al-Qaeda mail drop that is rarely used. And so when that bell rings, they say, 'Hey, they hardly ever use this account, but it's associated with Rashid Rauf, who is al-Qaeda's master bomb maker, behind the plot to blow up all the airplanes, 'Who's he talking to?' And when they find out the other IP address on the other end is connected to Aurora, Colorado, outside Denver, the connection to Zazi, it takes them to the plot to blow up the New York subways, it's all prevented. That's how a program like this is supposed to work."
But over at Buzzfeed, Ben Smith questions whether it was really the NSA spying that thwarted the plot, arguing that British intel was already monitoring email accounts linked to Zazi. "This is the sort investigation made possible by ordinary warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," he writes.

Najibullah Zazi arrives at the federal building for questioning by the FBI in Denver.
Najibullah Zazi arrives at the federal building for questioning by the FBI in Denver.   (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
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