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. sxj016

    Anyone else think it statistically improbable that the US counter intellegence has stopped 100% of terror plots on the US mainland since 9/11/01? This story is, like sooooo many, complete bull$h!t.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mydogsays

      Well said. More fearmongering to further advance the American Police State and steal away more of our rights.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • runner305

      Perhaps it is you who are chock full of detritus...

      May 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Frank Garrett

    All you have to do is serve pork on every flight and then no one will be able to blow it up.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lindsey

      Classic! If this comment weren't so politically incorrect, it would be used by Letterman etc. but they're too correct! I love it!!!

      May 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tom_VA

    Once again, plot foiled by real intelligence gathering and investigation, not by the theater that passes for "feel good" security at US airports. On the BBC page it showed a person in a security scanner as though that had anything to do with this. Think back. How many threats have been thwarted by the day in and day out screenings. None. In fact, the infamous printer bomb that was uncovered by investigative work took UK security two tries to find it even though they were pointed to a printer with the statement there's a bomb in there.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JB

    Just more media hype to justify why the TSA keeps running their hands down Granny"s panties.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • mydogsays

      You got it. More fearmongering.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Wiley Thruster

    This reeks of some Obama operative has been scouring White House intelligence reports for even the slightest crumb of another bold "gutsy" move by the Pretender-In-Chief.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      If only W were in office, they might have blown up four more airliners. Damn Obama!

      May 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • runner305

      Shame on you! Whether you like him or hate him, he IS the Commander-in-Chief! Turn your disrespect right around to yourself for that one!

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

    I really hope a one-eyed terrorist doesn't ever try to blow up a plane with a Glass-eye bomb. We'll all be standing in line for eye exams too.

    Oh, I guess I should also mention a possible C-4 rectal insert bomb attempt. Just looking at the TSA guy with the glove is bound to be a vacation enhancer.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Big Paulie

    If the Arabs were willing to revolt like that last Spring, just imagine what the 2nd American Revolution will be like. The first time, a rag-tag bunch of guerrilla fighters beat the empire the sun never set on. This time we have a lot more guns, a lot more anger, and a lot less time to get rid of these parasites. Slowly we're waking up as a whole, and you can hear hushed sentences expressing doubt of the newest fairy tale they tell us. The government seems to forget that the only thing protecting them is the military, and the majority of the military belong to the lower class that would be on the front lines AGAINST the US. If they keep making it clear they aren't counting our votes (Diebold voting machine fraud, to name only one instance), we'll vote from the rooftops and let the drones try to kill us.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. yuri pelham

    Bye bye

    May 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    Everybody take note: the TSA was yet again instrumental in having nothing whatsoever to do with catching a terrorist.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • yuri pelham

      I blogged a satire on this and was blocked. You know , stuff like the perp was a demented woman and a 2 year old Downs baby held for questioning.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. runner305

    Enough of your sickening hatred!

    May 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. byeezy0311

    Wow! Obama stops another one. Bet the terrorist 't wait for the GOP to get in office so the can finally get one past.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BOB

    So did the FBI encourage then sell these devices? What a load of crap, Don't trust the media or the government!

    May 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chuck

    "The official added, as others have, that the device has the hallmarks of their previous bombs..."

    What? That it didn't work?

    May 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. christine

    Stay safe... typed too fast on an auto correct kindle. Lol

    May 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NFLD thought

    Someone should tell them that they ran out of Virgins up there; Bin Laden took too much Viagra with him and has used it all up.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
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