In a rare public hearing, the House Intelligence Committee heard the testimony of leaders of the NSA and FBI Tuesday. As part of the public discovery of the many efforts of terrorists over the years since September 11, it was revealed that a terror plot against the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was stopped by NSA spying. That was news to traders, but it hardly shook stocks Tuesday. The SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) was higher by nearly a point at 1:41 PM ET.
National Security Agency (NSA) Director Keith Alexander told the Congressional Committee that some 50 plots had been thwarted since 9/11 across 20 countries because of NSA intelligence. He said that 10 serious terrorist efforts were blocked from occurring within the United States, one of which targeted the iconic New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
The NYSE is an obvious target for rogue foreign enemies because it represents American capitalism. It was even the target of domestic protests over recent years otherwise known as the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy Wall Street was inspired by the financial sector excesses that caused the financial crisis, and Main Street disapproval with “too big to fail” bank bailouts. As we know all too well from the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, foreign terrorists, possibly jealous of American privilege and wealth, seem to migrate towards Downtown New York City as well. Your author here was a witness to the events of 911, which he notes as seminal in altering his perspective of life.
FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce said the NYSE plot was discovered by NSA surveillance of a known extremist in Yemen, who was in contact with an individual in the United States. Joyce said that after initiating surveillance, the NSA discovered “nascent plotting” to bomb the stock exchange. As a result of the discovery, the FBI was able to disrupt the terrorists and thwart the plot.
Surveillance and cyber security is at the tip of every American tongue today. NSA monitoring of American citizens and others recently came to light when a former contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked to The Guardian that the government had accessed customer data from Verizon (NYSE: VZ) via court order. That led your author to pen, Sell Verizon – Its Brand Value is Tarnished. Also this month, President Obama met with China’s President to discuss cyber spying, much of which is said to be originated from the Chinese military. Recent rumors that Lenovo had interest in merging or acquiring Blackberry (Nasdaq: BBRY) inspired your author to pen, A Blackberry Chinese Company Merger Serves Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Maybe Hackers Too.
The debate about NSA surveillance continues today, but the NSA Director said he would much rather be appearing in public hearing as he is today than answering questions about how another terrorist attack got through. Americans are certainly assured privacy via the Constitution, but our open society also makes us vulnerable to those who would do us harm. I know one thing for sure, my former colleagues Downtown do not mind the government’s occasional peeping. This issue will continue to be debated and discussed, and maybe it’s a good thing that the public draw lines now regarding what is acceptable and what is not.