May 7th, 2012
06:09 PM ET

Official: Attempt to blow up plane thwarted

Editor's note: U.S. and international intelligence agencies have broken up an attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner, a U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN. Follow further developments here.

[Updated at 6:09 p.m. ET] A U.S. official told CNN the plot was disrupted "well before it was ever a threat to the United States.”

The official added that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was the group responsible for the plot.

"We believe AQAP produced the device, and we believe it was intended to be used by a suicide bomber on an aircraft," the official said. "The device and the plot are consistent with what we know about AQAP’s plans, intentions, and capabilities. They remain committed to striking targets in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the Homeland, and Europe. And AQAP is probably feeling pressure to conduct a successful attack to, from their perspective, avenge the deaths of Bin Laden and (Anwar al-Awlaki).”

Terrorist's death signals U.S-Yemen cooperation

The official added, as others have, that the device has the hallmarks of their previous bombs including the failed assassination attempt on Saudi security official Mohammed Bin Nayif as well as the failed 2009 Christmas Day bombing.

"While similar, a preliminary review of this device shows that it has some significant differences from the device used in the Christmas day attack," the U.S. official said. "It is clear that AQAP is revamping its bomb techniques to try to avoid the causes of the failure of the 2009 device."

The official said the FBI was thoroughly examining the device.

The U.S. official added it believed that the threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is due in part to territorial gains they were able to make during Yemen's political standoff in early 2011.

"Those territorial gains have allowed the group to establish additional training camps," the official said.

[Updated at 5:58 p.m. ET] Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed the plot during a press conference on an unrelated issue.

"What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country," Panetta said. "We will do everything necessary to keep America safe"

[Updated at 5:36 p.m. ET] CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank says one of the key things officials will be looking at is the exact make-up of the device and how it may be similar or different to the device used in the attempted bombing of an airliner in 2009.

Cruickshank said the suspect in the 2009 attempt, dubbed the "underwear bomber" wore the device for a long time as he traveled throughout Africa and it may have become desensitized. Tests on this device may allow officials to learn more about what changes al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula may have been made following the failed bombing.

Al Qaeda's biggest threat: al Asiri

[Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET] Matt Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, released a statement saying that they had no specific threat about an active plot against the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security statement added that the incident showed that enemies still have a high interest in targeting air transportation, which underscores the continued need for increased security at airports.

The statement reads:

“We have no specific, credible information regarding an active terrorist plot against the U.S. at this time, although we continue to monitor efforts by al-Qaeda and its affiliates to carry out terrorist attacks, both in the Homeland and abroad. Since this IED demonstrates our adversaries’ interest in targeting the aviation sector, DHS continues, at the direction of the President, to employ a risk-based, layered approach to ensure the security of the traveling public.

"These layers include threat and vulnerability analysis, prescreening and screening of passengers, using the best available technology, random searches at airports, federal air marshal coverage and additional security measures both seen and unseen. DHS will continue to work with our federal, state, local, international and private sector partners to identify potential threats and take appropriate protective measures. As always, we encourage law enforcement and security officials, as well as the general public, to maintain vigilance and report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.”

[Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET] The FBI released a statement Monday afternoon saying that the device was seized abroad.

It reads in full:

"As a result of close cooperation with our security and intelligence partners overseas, an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to carry out a terrorist attack has been seized abroad. The FBI currently has possession of the IED and is conducting technical and forensics analysis on it. Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations. The device never presented a threat to public safety, and the U.S. government is working closely with international partners to address associated concerns with the device. We refer you to the Department of Homeland Security, including the Transportation Security Administration, regarding ongoing security measures to safeguard the American people and the traveling public."

[Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET]  CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellen reports that a counterterrorism official said they do not believe the attack was  planned to coincide with the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Officials said they believed the device never posed a threat to the public and heralded the thwarted plot and recovered device as a sign that American intelligence capabilities have improved.

[Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET] Caitlin Hayden, the Deputy National Security Council Spokesperson, released a statement about the plot on behalf of the White House:

"The President was first informed about the plot in April by his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan, and he has received regular updates and briefings as needed from his national security team. While the President was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public, he directed the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps necessary to guard against this type of attack. The disruption of this IED plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad. The President thanks all intelligence and counterterrorism professionals involved for their outstanding work and for serving with the extraordinary skill and commitment that their enormous responsibilities demand.”

[Updated at 5:03 p.m. ET] A U.S. counterterrorism official said the specific device was "nonmetallic" and was made to be used by a suicide bomber on an airliner.

The device is different from what was used by the "underwear bomber" in 2009, but it was in the same category, the official said. Those changes show al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is adapting its tactics.

[Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET] U.S. and international intelligence agencies have broken up an attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner, a U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN on Monday.

"This is a success story," the U.S. official said, adding that an explosive device was recovered.

The device has the hallmarks of previous bombing attempts by members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula including those used in the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day in 2009 and against a senior Saudi official earlier in 2009, according to the U.S official. Both devices were associated with Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, the official said.

The plot was disrupted before it threatened Americans or allies and no airlines were at risk, the U.S official said.

The recovery of the device underscores the need to remain vigilant against a resilient and determined enemy, the official said.

Investigators are looking to analyze the device and expect it will yield valuable insights that will assist in adapting security practices here and abroad, officials said.

This story is developing. We will bring you the latest information as soon as we get it.

soundoff (367 Responses)
  1. bart47

    These govt staged events are becoming rather pathetic and obvious

    May 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kirplink

    Way to go Obama et al. 🙂

    May 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BobZemko

    Let me guess, Tom; you think 9/11 was an inside job, TWA flight 800 was brought down by a missile, vapor trails in the sky is a secret government plot to poison us, and Santa leaves gifts for all good little boys and girls on December 25th.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mthstar

    Good. The CIA just doin' its job. Instead of the neo-cons' preference to pawn it off on us. Keep up the good work. But really, we need to get outta other peoples' countries, for pete's sake. We (OK corp.s) don't need their resources. We need good karma more.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DS

    We should offer explosive courses and tutorials in Arabic to AQ on youtube in such a way that they'll end up blowing up themselves!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. newenki

    Reading these comments, I'm so glad to see that our people are finally starting to wake up. THANK GOD FOR THE INTERNET!!! THANK GOD!!!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PndFoolish

    “While the President was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public, he directed the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps necessary to guard against this type of attack"...WHAT? Is this self-serving campaign hype or do our anti-terrorist experts have to be told whether they can "take steps" by this president before stopping an attack?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnK

      Did you want them to shutdown all the airlines, raise the threat level, or strike some target for retaliation without orders?
      Why is it that you Repugs want to make everything a partisan issue?
      Unbelievable!

      May 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. zooni

    The underwear bomber had no passport, so who are the gentleman that allowed him to get on the plane. Sounds like a bunch of middle eastern people are being used as tools for fear. Fear is then used to remove liberty from the American public.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joesmith

    When they made the bomb from liquids, there was a ban on carry on liquids. Now, I am hearing the TSA is banning underwear.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. GrouchyKat

    Didn't Obama say that the war on terror was over? I could have sworn he said so.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Peikovianyi

    Cynics suck, don't you think? Oh, that'a right. You don't think.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Blame it on Obama!!!! You this guy has kept us so safe it's not even funny. Foreign policy was supposed to be his down fall yet the guy is a mastermind who put this best people possible in the right positions. His record is impeccable. Obama thinks before he acts unlike the quick trigger GOP. A class act all the way OBAMA 2012!!!!

      May 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      "Matt Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, released a statement saying that they had no specific threat about an active plot against the U.S."

      Doesn't quite match the screaming headlines, does it? Wanna bet that it turns out that the CIA is involved somehow? Especially now that Obama declared that the war on terror is over!

      May 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JohnnyRay

    I like AQAP as an acronym for the movement, but would prefer al-Qaeda United Across Countries of the Koran (QUACK).

    May 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      AQAP is also the acronym for Allied Quality Assurance Publication (NATO)

      May 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eric

    When you have 230,000 employees of the department of homeland security that were hired in the last decade you have to justify your actions somehow. The real concern I have is how are they really spending their time? It doesn't take much to get an informant into a group of bad people then start supplying them with bombs to continue your own publicity. No airlines were ever in danger wreaks of we were working with them all along.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JeffinIL

    One of these days, someone is going to finally succeed in blowing off his own testicles.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Klaas Jan

    Seems like there's a report like this once a week. Stop fear mongering, we don't need to hear about it every time. Glory seeking, perhaps?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • liu

      Better than the continued state of orange...

      May 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Denver

      No, just a way to keep justifying the illegal activities of the TSA and Homeland Security! Wanna bet that the CIA isn't linked somehow?

      May 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
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