Appearing before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce cited four examples of potential terrorist attacks that were thwarted thanks to the government’s surveillance programs, which have been criticized as spying on Americans since their leak a couple weeks ago.
One of these examples was a foiled plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, involving Khalid Ouazzan of Kansas City, Missouri, who was said to be in contact with an extremist in Yemen.
But Ouazzan’s attorney said later Tuesday this was all news to him.
Wired reported defense attorney Robin Fowler saying Ouazzani plead guilty in 2010 for financing al-Qaeda, in addition to money laundering and bank fraud, but no bomb plans.
“Khalid Ouazzani was not involved in any plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange,” Fowler said, according to Wired.
Fowler provided CNN Money with the same statement.
Wired points to Ouazzani’s plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors, which doesn’t cite a bomb plot. Fowler didn’t provide any other comment to Wired.
CNN reported Joyce saying it was the PRISM program that linked Ouazzani to the nascent plot.
“Ouazzani had been providing information and support to this plot,” Joyce said. “The FBI disrupted and arrested these individuals.”
Watch Joyce speak about the foiled plot:
Here’s more from CNN regarding the players in the plan and how Ouazzani could have been associated:
Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas City, said Ouazzani had served as a cooperating witness in a case involving two New York men — Wesam El-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff — who pleaded guilty last year to providing material support to al Qaeda. The two were taken into custody following their arrests in the United Arab Emirates in 2010.
The government’s sentencing memo for Hasanoff, filed in federal court last month, says he traveled to the stock exchange in 2008, “unquestionably with the purpose of gathering information for a future terrorist attack.” Hasanoff later produced a report on this expedition described as “rudimentary and of limited use … to plan a terrorist operation.”
Ouazzani was “a close associate” of Hasanoff and El-Hanafi who conspired with them to send money to al Qaeda, the sentencing memo says. The memo refers to Ouazzani only as “the CW,” or cooperating witness.
Ouazzani is expected to receive sentencing next month.