Headly becomes mascot as US justifies covert spying

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Washington, June 11: David Headley has become the mascot of covert American programme. American officials have defended the controversial secret surveillance of the Obama administration and said today that such efforts helped them to abort several terrorist attacks and nab terrorists like David Headley, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks convict.

Pakistani-American Headley, 51, was arrested by the US security agencies in October 2009 for scouting the targets of the Mumbai attack for terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"A second example, also occurring in 2009, involved one of those perpetrators of the Mumbai bombing in India, David Headley. And we aborted the plot against a Danish news publisher based on the same kind of information," National Intelligence Director James Clapper told the MSNBC.

Clapper was responding to questions on the revelation of a secretive government programme to tap into phone records of millions of Americans and emails of foreign nationals.

He argued that this has actually prevented terror plots. "One was the aborted plot to bomb the subway in New York City in the fall of 2009. And this all started with a communication from Pakistan to a US person in Colorado. And that led to the identification of a cell in New York City who was bent on a major bombing of the New York City subway. And a cell was rolled up, and in their apartment, we found backpacks with bombs," he said.

White House justifies

The White House too defended the programme, saying that it is important to keep a track of the foreign activities. "He believes... it's entirely appropriate for a programme to exist to look at foreign data and potential foreign terrorists," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

White House has also welcomed a debate over the electronic surveillance. Carney said the measures are a necessary middle way between total privacy and unacceptable threat.

He said President Barack Obama would be willing to consider changes should a national debate show the public wants them, but noted "this is not the manner by which he hoped to have the debate".

Americans okay with tracking of phone records

Obama administration would be happy to know that a new survey shows that more than half of Americans are fine with government surveillance, but in a specific area.

Fifty-six percent consider the government's tracking of phone records an "acceptable way" to investigate terrorism, according to the new national survey released on Monday by the Pew Research Centre and the Washington Post.

However, Americans are less supportive of the government's ability to monitor emails with 45 percent saying "yes", while 52 percent saying "no" to it, according to the survey.

These numbers are relatively unchanged from a similar question asked in July 2002, less than a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

The survey was conducted Thursday through Sunday, as information about the federal surveillance programmes was being published by the Guardian and the Washington Post.

Snowden missing

Meanwhile, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has checked out of the Hong Kong hotel he was staying and the whereabouts of the man who revealed information about a highly classified US surveillance program was unknown on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old Snowden fled to the Chinese territory on May 20, before the newspaper published reports of the US National Security Agency's monitoring of phone calls and Internet data for threats of terrorism.

With agencies inputs

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