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NSA ‘helped foil terror plot in Belgium’
Belgian court documents and Western counterterrorism officials have revealed that a potential al Qaeda plot targeting Belgium was thwarted partly by email information provided by American internet providers, reports CNN’s Paul Cruickshank. The case, which came to light in 2008, shows how U.S. intelligence capabilities can aid in disrupting plots. On Tuesday, American counterterrorism officials revealed that more than 50 plots have been thwarted since September 11, 2001, using National Security Agency surveillance programs. The officials, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, revealed only four of those plots and promised to provide details on the others to Congress in a classified setting. The Belgium plot, though not confirmed to be one of the 50 that relied on the recently revealed secretive NSA program to monitor online messages, appears to fit the bill. On December 11, 2008, Belgian authorities arrested an al Qaeda cell in Brussels that they feared had been planning a suicide bombing attack. An intercepted email from one of the cell members to his ex-girlfriend indicated he was about to launch a suicide attack. A defence lawyer in the case told CNN that prosecutors at trial acknowledged that the United States intercepted the communication and passed it to the Belgians. In addition, a Western counterterrorism official told CNN that an intelligence agency from a partner country had intercepted another communication from the cell, that further suggested they may be about to launch an attack and passed the information onto the Belgians intelligence services. Court documents in the case suggest this intercept was also made by U.S. intelligence.