No, NSA Surveillance Wouldn’t Have Prevented 9/11 And It Hasn’t Foiled a Single Terror Plot


Perpetual NSA cheerleader Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday arguing that if we had had the NSA spying program prior to the 9/11 attacks, “we would have detected the impending attack that killed 3,000 Americans.” Therefore, systematic violations of the Fourth Amendment as a matter of policy is justified.

Well, I’m sold!

Feinstein’s primary piece of evidence for this argument is that NSA Director Keith Alexander says so. The problem is that NSA Director Alexander says a lot of things that aren’t true. Back in June, he claimed that NSA’s bulk collection of call records and Internet activity disrupted 54 “terror plots.” Early this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee got Alexander to admit that this claim was wrong and misleading.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) said the NSA dragnet call data program, which is what most people are up in arms about, “played little or no role” in the disruption of these terrorist plots.

So far, there is only one case that government has cited to justify the vast surveillance both at home and abroad. And no, it by no means foiled a second 9/11. The case is that of Basaaly Moalin, a Somali immigrant who was living in San Diego when he decided to send al-Shabab $8,500. Somehow, the surveillance programs narrowed the search for Moalin, who could have easily been caught through more traditional law enforcement procedures.

As Yochai Benkler explained at the Guardian, “this single successful prosecution, under a vague criminal statute, which stopped a few thousand dollars from reaching one side in a local conflict in the Horn of Africa, is the sole success story for the NSA bulk domestic surveillance program.” If you ask me, this doesn’t count as an argument in favor of these NSA programs.

The Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez writes today that Feinstein’s argument “is simply an attempt to exploit the tragedy of 9/11 to deflect criticism of massive domestic surveillance that would not have been any use in preventing that attack.”

I think it’s safe to say Dianne Feinstein is engaging in hyperbole…or, to put it less generously, dishonesty. The NSA is under more scrutiny now than it has ever been, and they can’t come up with a single example of its utility (never mind legality). The failure to come up with evidence of the programs’ utility itself provides the answer to the question: NSA surveillance doesn’t keep Americans safe from terrorists, period.

2 thoughts on “No, NSA Surveillance Wouldn’t Have Prevented 9/11 And It Hasn’t Foiled a Single Terror Plot”

  1. Given Mossad was tailing the 9/11 attackers and its agent danced with joy as the towers came down, perhaps Feinstein should be asking Israel why it didn't share its intelligence with the US so the attack could have been prevented by having armed marshalls on the flights.

    1. Yonatan… There's no evidence that Mossad had an active role in 911… but you're right, it was an open secret that the CIA let the al Qaeda hijackers in the country and according to the Congressional 911 Inquiry and testimony from many insiders that the 911 events were the product of collaborative efforts –on the executive level– of the CIA and the FBI, as well as elements of the US Military. Financing, logistics and protection from law enforcement aided the al-Qaeda hijackers the moment the first of them arrived in the US 18 months before 911. Saudi intelligence on the highest levels was a very active collaborator as well, including the Saudi Ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar.

    2. (continued) Here's the Congressional Inquiry– asks Feinstein why she's ignoring this document…

      One insider's account (Richard Clarke) indicates elaborate deception and concealment efforts by the CIA, designed to keep the Bush White House and the anti-terror apparatus in the dark about the al-Qaeda network activities in the run-up to September 11th.


      The Israelis likely got wind of the CIA- FBI- Saudi 911 caper from their moles in US intelligence and went along for the ride.

  2. If the NSA domestic spying program had been in place, it would have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this year. Hey, wait a minute….

  3. Didn't the Russians give us all sorts of warnings about Tamerlan Tsarnaev being a terrorist that planned to travel to Chechnya soon, and then Tsarnaev did exactly that? And didn't the NSA fail to ever identify Tsarnaev as a suspect even after his photograph was nationally televised by Boston police? If only the NSA had a lead to follow….

    Diane Feinstein is a worthless sack of manure.

  4. The NSA is more interested in surveilling antiwar protesters and Occupy Wall Street organizers than terrorists.

    1. That's the only thing they want to know (aside from stealing trade secrets and destroying attorney-client privileges)

  5. The Russians have a pretty darned good response to the NSA data collection scheme: typewriters. They are buying up typewriters and marking the typing elements with patterns to identify which exact machine was used (along with the exact typist) and from there they have a foolproof chain of custody for their documents. Sure, it's slower than a digital system, but if it's secure it's secure.

    Now, maybe the NSA and every other alphabet soup US government agency should take note of this: sometimes doing things quick and easy isn't the best way. Sometimes it takes actual detective work and knowledge to get your man and build your case against him. When we forget how to do our jobs without our fancy tools and gadgets, that's when we are the most vulnerable.

  6. NSA has got to have some pretty horrible stuff on Feinstein's private life that she doesn't want to get out. This goes for all cheerleaders for the national security state.

  7. Actually, the guy in San Diego sent money more as a tribal thing, like a tithe, as opposed to sending money to fund terrorist operations. So the actual count is ZERO. Heathcliff above got it right. The only threat to them is the American public. Peace is a threat to their funding. Knowledge is a threat to their power. If it weren’t for the western powers’ intelligence agencies creating, arming, training, and funding Islamic radicals, there would be no terrorist threat in the first place, at least not near the extent around the world it has become. And whether Mossad did or didn’t hatch the 9/11 plot or participate in it, it sure as sh*t wasn’t carried out solely by 19 douchebags with boxcutters directed by a dying man in a cave somewhere halfway around the world. And if it weren’t for the FBI using informants to provide mentally unstable, hopelessly inept wanna-be jihadis with the means and motivation to attempt acts of terror, there might only be one or two actual legitimate threats, which were NOT prevented by the FBI, CIA, NSA, or any other alphabet soup agency, but NYPD in one case, and if there’s a second one I can’t recall other than it wasn’t an intelligence service.

  8. What an ugly looking, fat-fuckhead! Sorry Sinister Dark Fartstain, We the Not-So-Gullible-Bubble know that the NSA was spying on apple-pie-in-the-sky long before 911 happened. The joke's on youwhoo…!

  9. Hello John Glaser,

    I agree with your point that the NSA is overstepping its bounds without providing concrete evidence of its utility. I also feel that there are benefits to the NSA's operations, though they may be hard to see, and the key is regulation and openness, not the abolition of the organization.

    Would you mind reading my blog at…? I would like to have your perspective.

    Jacob Spoelstra
    The Green Room at Iowa State University

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