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March 8, 2006
Why We Spy

For those who profess outrage at the use of the NSA's intercept program on international communications, the ABC news report on the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui explains why our intelligence services should not get hamstrung by the law-enforcement mentality when the US is under attack:

The number 050-520-9905 is what several of the 9/11 hijackers dialed to establish contact with Mustafa al Hawsawi, a senior al Qaeda member in the United Arab Emirates.

Prosecutors said today that Hawsawi was one of the key financial contributors and travel coordinators for several of the 9/11 hijackers, and that the 9/11 investigation shows that Mohammed Atta was in regular contact with him in the weeks before the attack.

In laying out for the jury the specifics of how the 9/11 plot was hatched, prosecutors showed the jury a series of money transfer orders and records of calls to Hawsawi from Mohammed Atta, which he made using an AT&T calling card.

Radical Islamists had publicly declared their intention to strike at American interests at home and abroad at least since the mid-1990s. A series of attacks followed afterwards, including the bombings of two of our embassies and a suicide attack on the USS Cole, all of which fall very clearly into the category of "acts of war". Had the US actually adopted a war footing and started tracking international communications that involved countries known to harbor radical Islamists, we may have discovered the actors of the 9/11 plot before the attacks could occur. Combined with the information coming from Able Danger, it would have given counterterrorism intelligence a large jump on Atta and his cohorts.

Instead, to this day, we're still trying to fit counterterrorism intelligence into the law-enforcement mode with FISA and the substitutes offered by Congress today. And thanks to the New York Times, the NSA tracking and intercept program is likely dead as terrorists will choose alternate methods by which to activate their plans and their members.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 8, 2006 6:40 AM

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