Various security officials have made the case that the government's phone and Internet surveillance is necessary to keep the country safe, but FBI chief Robert Mueller brought out the big guns during testimony on Capitol Hill today. Had this kind of data mining been in place 13 years ago, the 9/11 attacks might never have happened, he said. Highlights of his argument, picked up by Mediaite:
- “Before 9/11, there was an individual by the name of Khalid al-Mihdhar who came to be one of the principle hijackers. He was being tracked by the intelligence agencies in the Far East. They lost track of him.”
- “At the same time, the intelligence agencies had identified an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen. They understood that that al-Qaeda safe house had a telephone number, but they could not know who was calling into that particular safe house.”
- Authorities learned after 9/11 that it was Mihdhar calling from San Diego. "If we had the telephone number in Yemen, we would have matched it up to that number in San Diego ... and identified Mihdhar."
Democrat John Conyers, who warned in his opening statement "that we are on the verge of becoming a surveillance state," wasn't wowed by the 9/11 argument, reports the Guardian
. "I am not persuaded that makes it OK to collect every phone call."