The extensive National Security Agency surveillance programs revealed this summer by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have been defended by the United States government, citing their role in preventing terrorist attacks at home and abroad. The most frequently cited example of such success is the thwarting of the September 2009 al Qaeda terrorist plot – led by Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-American – to attack the New York City subway system. Pulitzer-prize winning journalists Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman have just finished an in depth investigation of the Zazi threat, and in their new book, Enemies Within: Inside NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Ladin’s Final Plot Against America (Touchstone, 2013), they outline how the plot was foiled and what the plot reveals about the al Qaeda threat today.
On October10, the Brookings Intelligence Project hosted co-author Matt Apuzzo, reporter with the Associated Press, to examine the details of the Zazi threat, the counter-terrorism effort that foiled the plot, and the current state of al Qaeda. Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.