Playing the 9/11 card

In a document obtained by Al Jazeera under the Freedom of Information Act, the NSA urges its officials to use 9/11 as a sound bite to deflect any questions about their snooping programs, giving them explicit language to use. And sure enough, NSA director Keith Alexander used it in his congressional testimony.

The National Security Agency advised its officials to cite the 9/11 attacks as justification for its mass surveillance activities, according to a master list of NSA talking points.

The document, obtained by Al Jazeera through a Freedom of Information Act request, contains talking points and suggested statements for NSA officials (PDF) responding to the fallout from media revelations that originated with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Invoking the events of 9/11 to justify the controversial NSA programs, which have caused major diplomatic fallout around the world, was the top item on the talking points that agency officials were encouraged to use.

Under the subheading “Sound Bites That Resonate,” the document suggests the statement “I much prefer to be here today explaining these programs, than explaining another 9/11 event that we were not able to prevent.”

We all knew that 9/11 was an all-purpose excuse for all manner of government excess. It is a little surprising to see it spelled out in this explicit manner.


  1. Félix Desrochers-Guérin says

    In that particular case, what makes the “because 9/11” excuse an extremely noxious truckload of horseshit (even by “national security” standards) is that everything that was needed to know in order to foil the 9/11 plot was in fact known by law enforcement, and obtained legally. Bureaucratic inertia and infighting left nobody able to connect the dots, and the rest is history.

    At least the bureaucratic problem was solved with the addition of yet more bureaucracy.

  2. says

    I actually find it refreshing that it was spelled out in such explicit terms. It just give weight to something that many people already know; the US government actively spies on its citizens. This is nothing new.

    The US government has been engaged in domestic spying since the late 60s, when COINTELPRO started spying on the Black Panthers and the American Indian movement. Back then they used the excuse that these radical groups were dangerous to the safety of others.

    I am so sick of the US government using the 9/11 tragedy as a device to silence dissenters and make people feel guilty, and unpatriotic for asking questions that we have every right to ask.

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