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September 08, 2009

NSA Intercepts Helped Convict Would-Be Airline Bombers

And Democrats wished they hadn't.

According to Channel 4, the NSA had previously shown the e-mails to their British counterparts, but refused to let prosecutors use the evidence in the first trial, because the agency didn’t want to tip off an alleged accomplice in Pakistan named Rashid Rauf that his e-mail was being monitored. U.S. intelligence agents said Rauf was al Qaeda’s director of European operations at the time and that the bomb plot was being directed by Rauf and others in Pakistan.

The NSA later changed its mind and allowed the evidence to be introduced in the second trial, which was crucial to getting the jury conviction. Channel 4 suggests the NSA’s change of mind occurred after Rauf, a Briton born of Pakistani parents, was reportedly killed last year by a U.S. drone missile that struck a house where he was staying in northern Pakistan.

Keep in mind the critical difference between intelligence gathering and evidence collection. The Brits were lucky the NSA allowed them to use this intelligence in the second trial. Without it, the would-be bombers would probably have got another acquittal on the more serious terrorism charges.

The BBC has excerpts from the "coded" emails along with the prosecutors' explanations of what they meant. Apparently "Calvin Klein aftershave" = "hydrogen peroxide." Actually, that's about right.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:04 PM

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