Former vice president Dick Cheney has come out stating that, if the NSA’s surveillance program had been running during 9/11, there’s a good chance that it could have been prevented.
“As everybody who’s been associated with the program’s said, if we had had this before 9/11, when there were two terrorists in San Diego — two hijackers — had been able to use that program, that capability, against that target, we might well have been able to prevent 9/11,” Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.”
This program didn’t stop the Boston Bombings or the Times Square Bomber. The Boston bombers were caught because they stole a car, the owner escaped and reported it. Then, the lone survivor after having shootout with the police in which his brother was killed, hid out in a boat. It was a concerned citizen who found him, despite the police having closed down the city in their search for him. NSA surveillance, PRISM and Boundless Informant did nothing to stop or even warn of what was about to happen.
All of the evidence that could have stopped 9/11 was ignored by Dick Cheney, George Bush and everyone else in Washington at the time. To say that surveillance of the internet and telephone calls would have prevented 9/11 is simply not true. The fact is, there is no way to truly know if it would have helped or hindered an investigation into the 9/11 terrorists. Dick Cheney is merely politically posturing to convince other people that government spying on citizens is a good thing.
If one remembers, there were several warnings about the exact type of attack that occurred on 9/11.
The recent congressional report on the 9/11 intelligence failures lists a dozen pre-9/11 indications that terrorists were plotting a suicide hijacking. For example, in 1994 Algerians hijacked an Air France airliner with the intention of crashing it into the Eiffel Tower. (They were tricked by French officials into landing in Marseilles to refuel, where they were overpowered.) In 1995, police in the Philippines uncovered an al-Qaida plot to fly a plane into CIA headquarters. (One of the plotters: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.) A year later, al-Qaida had the idea of flying a plane from outside the United States and crashing it into the White House. Two years later, al-Qaida planned to fly a plane from outside the United States and crash it into the World Trade Center. And so on.
Intelligence officials, who are endlessly juggling all kinds of different threats, didn’t take the suicide-plane schemes seriously because they believed there were other, more imminent dangers. But no one can say they weren’t warned.
In 2004, The National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau compiled statistics that clearly showed a person is more likely to die numerous other things than a terror attack.
Taking these figures into account, a rough calculation suggests that in the last five years, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. This compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000. In other words, in the last five years you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has just published, Background Report: 9/11, Ten Years Later [PDF]. The report notes, excluding the 9/11 atrocities, that fewer than 500 people died in the U.S. from terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2010. The report adds, “From 1991-2000, the United States averaged 41.3 terrorist attacks per year. After 2001, the average number of U.S. attacks decreased to 16 per year from 2002-2010.”
Americans also need to stop listening to Dick Cheney, who had a lot to gain by going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 9/11 could have only been prevented by actually reading and acting on the briefs and memos given to people like Cheney as well as simply listening to those in the intelligence community. By Dick Cheney’s logic, the NSA’s spying could have prevented the American Revolution too.