U.S. Mass Surveillance Has No Record of Thwarting Large Terror Attacks, Regardless of Snowden Leaks

CIA Director John Brennan asserted on Monday that “many of these terrorist operations are uncovered and thwarted before they’re able to be carried out,” and lamented the post-Snowden “handwringing” that has made that job more difficult.

But the reason there haven’t been any large-scale terror attacks by ISIS in the U.S. is not because they were averted by the intelligence community, but because — with the possible exception of one that was foiled by local police — none were actually planned.

And even before Snowden, the NSA wasn’t able to provide a single substantiated example of its surveillance dragnet preventing any domestic attack at all.

The recent history of terror arrests linked to ISIS is documented in an internal, unclassified Department of Homeland Security document provided to The Intercept via SecureDrop. It shows that terror arrests between January 2014 and September 2015 linked to ISIS were largely of people trying to travel abroad, provide material support, or plan attacks that were essentially imaginary.

The document assigns six categories to types of arrests made in the given time period: a foiled attack, “aspirational” planning, “advanced attack plotting”, failed travel, travel, or material support.

The only foiled attack involved the arrests of Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who travelled from Arizona to Garland, Tex., bearing assault weapons and body armor, intending to shoot up an art contest involving drawing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Both attackers were shot by local police officers.

There are just five instances of what the report authors call “advanced attack plotting”—two of which involve the FBI providing assistance in planning or acquiring supplies for an attack before making an arrest.

An FBI agent also provided a fake explosive device to John T. Booker, a 20-year-old Kansas man who was indicted for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Usaamah Rahim, a 26-year-old Boston man, was killed by police officers when he was stopped for questioning after allegedly threatening them with a knife. He had been posting ISIS-inspired social media messages, and had threatened to kill Pamela Geller, the host of the Garland, Texas Muhammad cartoon contest. Law enforcement sources called that plot a “fantasy” but said his second plan, to kill cops, was more believable.

There were 12 examples of “aspirational” plots, or even less advanced plans to commit attacks.

There were 30 arrests involving people who were trying to travel to join up with ISIS, most of whom failed, and 15 of attempting to provide some sort of “material support.”

That’s hardly a record of averting major ISIS attacks on the homeland.

Full article: U.S. Mass Surveillance Has No Record of Thwarting Large Terror Attacks, Regardless of Snowden Leaks (The Intercept)

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