A convicted Kansas City terrorist was part of a foiled plot to bomb Wall Street, a deputy FBI director told members of Congress Tuesday.
Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce testified Tuesday that the Kansas City man provided aid to the plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.
The man is now a cooperating witness against the masterminds of the New York plot.
Classified spying programs had monitored an extremist in Yemen who had contacted with Khalid Ouazzani. The Kansas City man pleaded guilty in May 2010 in a federal court in Kansas City to providing material support, including sending $23,000, to Al-Qaida.
Joyce said Ouazzani and others were identified through spying approved by a special court. That led to the FBI detecting "a nascent plotting to bomb the NYSE," Joyce said.
"Ouazzani had been providing information and support to this plot," he said. "The FBI disrupted and arrested these individuals."
But the man's attorney told the Kansas City Star that his client had no knowledge or role in the surveillance associated with the NYSE plot.
Overland Park attorney Robin Fowler spoke to KCTV5's Amy Anderson via telephone.
"Khalid Ouazzani did not participate in any plot to blow up the New York Exchange," Fowler said.
Ouazzani's sentencing has been delayed several times. He faces up to 65 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine. He is apparently working with federal prosecutors in hopes of avoiding the maximum prison sentence.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas City said Ouazzani is cooperating as a witness in a case in New York against two men in which the Wall Street bomb plot is involved. He first sought to wage jihad against the United States in 2008 and prosecutors said was willing to go overseas to fight or receive training to commit acts of terrorism in the United States.
FBI leaders cited Ouazzani's case at the hearing as an example of how the nation's spying and other intelligence gathering efforts had foiled some 50 terrorist plots in nearly two dozen countries.
"The FBI immediately started legal process to fully identify Ouazzani. We went up on electronic surveillance and identified his co-conspirators, and this was the plot that was in the very initial stages of plotting to bomb the New York Stock exchange. We were able to disrupt the plot, we were able to lure some individuals to the United States and we were able to effect their arrest and they were convicted for this terrorist activity," Joyce said.
Army Gen. Keith Alexander testified that 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 in the terrorism fight.
Alexander, seated side by side with top officials from the FBI and Justice Department at a rare, open Congressional hearing, described how the operations work under questioning from members of the House Intelligence Committee who displayed a supportive demeanor. The officials, as well as members of the panel, repeatedly bemoaned the leaks by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former contractor.
Alexander said Snowden's leaks have caused "irreversible and significant damage to this nation" that also undermined the country's relationship with its allies.
Asked what was next for Snowden, Sean Joyce, deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said simply, "Justice."
Intelligence officials last week disclosed some details on two thwarted attacks - one targeting the New York subway system and one to bomb a Danish newspaper office that had published the cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammad.
The hearing came the morning after President Barack Obama, who is attending the G-8 summit in Ireland, vigorously defended the surveillance programs in a lengthy interview Monday, calling them transparent - even though they are authorized in secret.
"It is transparent," Obama told PBS' Charlie Rose in an interview. "That's why we set up the FISA court," the president added, referring to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorizes 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.
Obama said he has named representatives to a privacy and civil liberties oversight board to help in the debate over just how far government data gathering should be allowed to go - a discussion that is complicated by the secrecy surrounding the FISA court, with hearings held at undisclosed locations and with only government lawyers present. The orders that result are all highly classified.
"We're going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place ... that their phone calls aren't being listened into; their text messages aren't being monitored, their emails are not being read by some big brother somewhere," the president said in the interview with Rose, who also anchors CBS This Morning.
A senior administration official said Obama had asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to determine what more information about the two programs could be made public, to help better explain them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.
Snowden on Monday accused members of Congress and administration officials of exaggerating their claims about the success of the data gathering programs, including pointing to the arrest of the would-be New York subway bomber, Najibullah Zazi, in 2009.
In an online interview with The Guardian in which he posted answers to questions, he said Zazi could have been caught with narrower, targeted surveillance programs - a point Obama conceded in his interview without mentioning Snowden.
"We might have caught him some other way," Obama said. "We might have disrupted it because a New York cop saw he was suspicious. Maybe he turned out to be incompetent and the bomb didn't go off. But, at the margins, we are increasing our chances of preventing a catastrophe like that through these programs," he said.
Even before the post-Sept. 11 expanded surveillance, the FBI had the authority to - and did, regularly - monitor email accounts linked to terrorists. Before the laws changed, the government needed to get a warrant by showing that the target was a suspected member of a terrorist group. In the Zazi case, that connection already was well-established.
Copyright2013 KCTV (MeredithCorp.) and Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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