Official Admits to ABC: FBI Deputy Director ‘Misspoke’ About Major Claim During NSA Hearing

While giving examples to the House Intelligence Committee about how the government’s surveillance programs have helped stop potential terrorist attacks, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce linked a Kansas City man to a nascent bomb plot that was thwarted thanks to intelligence efforts Tuesday. It turns out, though, Joyce wasn’t quite correct.

Khalid Ouazzani (Photo: AP/Kansas City Police Department)

Shortly after Joyce’s statement, Khalid Ouazzani’s attorney, Robin Fowler, came out saying to Wired that his client “was not involved in any plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.”

An official familiar with the case has now confirmed to ABC News that Joyce “misspoke.”

“Ouazzani had been providing information and support to this plot,” Joyce said Tuesday. “The FBI disrupted and arrested these individuals.”

ABC reported former U.S. attorney Beth Phillips, who is now a federal judge, saying there is “no evidence that Ouazzani engaged in any specific plot against the United States government.”

But the anonymous official told ABC the government’s ability to thwart the plot should not be discounted:

The official insisted that a terror plot may not seem like a serious threat if it’s stopped in the planning stages, as the Stock Exchange targeting was.

“It was, as Deputy Director Joyce stated, in its nascent stages and could have progressed well beyond that if it wasn’t for our ability to obtain the FISA material,” the official told ABC News.

Sean Joyce
Sean Joyce, Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), testifies before the House Select Intelligence Committee on the NSA’s PRISM program, which tracks web traffic and US citizens’ phone records, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 18, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Ouazzani did plead guilty in 2010 for financing al-Qaeda, in addition to money laundering and bank fraud, and is expected to be sentenced next month.

The information law enforcement obtained of Ouazzani’s communications with terrorists overseas lead them to two Americans — Sabirhan Hasanoff and Wesam El-Hanafi. It was Hasanoff who the U.S. government accused of beginning surveillance of the NYSE, but ABC News reported Hasanoff saying in a plea before being sentenced next week that nothing he searched was “beyond what anyone could have learned from Google Earth, a tourist map or brochure.”

ABC reported Hasanoff’s lawyer, David Rhunke, calling it “almost silly” that the government would use an alleged plot as an example of success for the recently leaked surveillance programs.