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Last updated: June 18. 2013 10:06PM - 898 Views
By JOE SYLVESTER



Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and head of the U.S. Cyber Command, testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. From right to left are Deputy Director of the FBI Sean Joyce, Alexander, Chris Inglis, deputy director of the National Security Agency, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and head of the U.S. Cyber Command, testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. From right to left are Deputy Director of the FBI Sean Joyce, Alexander, Chris Inglis, deputy director of the National Security Agency, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. foiled a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange because of the sweeping surveillance programs at the heart of a debate over national security and personal privacy, officials said Tuesday at a rare open hearing on intelligence — a set-piece for supporters of the snooping.


The House Intelligence Committee, led by lawmakers sympathetic to the extraordinary surveillance, provided a venue for officials to defend the once-secret programs. There was limited probing of claims that the collection of people’s phone records and Internet usage has disrupted dozens of terrorist plots, and few details were volunteered.


Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, said the two recently disclosed programs — one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism — are critical. But details about them were not closely held within the secretive agency. Alexander said after the hearing that the documents accessed by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former systems analyst on contract to the NSA, were on a web forum available to all NSA employees.


When Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce was asked what is next for Snowden, he said, simply, “justice.” Snowden fled to Hong Kong and is hiding.


Intelligence officials last week disclosed some details on what they said were two thwarted attacks, one targeting the New York subway system, one a Danish newspaper office that had published the cartoon depictions of the Mohammad. On Tuesday, Alexander said more than 50 terrorist acts were averted because of the surveillance programs in question.


In one example, Joyce said the NSA was able to identify an extremist in Yemen who was in touch with someone in Kansas City, Mo., enabling authorities to identify co-conspirators and thwart a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange. He said this was made possible by one of the surveillance programs disclosed by Snowden, but he did not say which one.


Joyce also said a terrorist financier inside the U.S. was identified and arrested in October 2007 because of a phone record provided by the NSA. The individual was making phone calls to a known designated terrorist group overseas, Joyce said. He confirmed under questioning that the calls were to Somalia.


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