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. owner

    WASHINGTON, GEORGE, in Maxims of George Washington by A. A. Appleton& Co.

    "They (the Jews) work more effectively against us, than the enemy's armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in... It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pest to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America."

    May 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • thelittlefeline

      We win you lose get over it!!!!

      May 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Uknown

    Let the HATING begin

    May 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tim

    President Obama is not taking a nap at the Oval Office, unlike Bush circa September 10, 2001.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TSA Afficionado

    So I just heard that the device was designed to be inserted uh – up someone's, um, well – their nether region. Their bum. Their ass. OK – to get technical, they were going to insert it up their anus.

    What does this mean? STRIP AND BODY CAVITY SEARCHES WILL COMMENCE TOMORROW MORNING AT 0600 hours.

    If you don't want to submit, then you don't have to. You also don't have to fly, either, which is what you'll be doing: NOT FLYING.

    The TSA is ALWAYS right. They're NEVER wrong. They NEVER do ANYTHING that's not 100% needed to insure the safety of all Americans. BESIDES – IF YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG – YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO WORRY ABOUT, RIGHT????

    you watch – this is what conservaturds will start saying is going to be necessary – and it's also how they'll justify it. AND – heavens forfend – if you happen to criticize or complain, well, then you MUST be a terrorist and you deserve what you get.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      What channels do you get on your tin foil hat? The sound really exciting!

      May 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Zero10

    Don't believe everything you read.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Billy

    God, what are they going to make use do at the airport now?

    May 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. yuri pelham

    Yup, we're in charge so suck it up puppet.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alan

    If the govt says it truth will most likely be opposite of what they say

    May 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ttony21

    So the next time an American decides to bomb a building, we'll nuke ourselves? Idiot.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. allenwoll

    As usual, the "Right-Handed" trolls are out of their dark, dank, chilly burrows blabbing the usual blarney ! ! !

    Unemployed/unemployable trolls are a real anoyance ! ! !

    May 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bush's Brain

    Wow, stopped another terrorist attack and didn't even have to invade another country waste thousands of lives and trillions of dollars doing it.

    That's the difference between having a Democratic and a Republican President.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TSA Afficionado

    "absolute proof"

    You mean like the WMD that Bush had "incontrovertible evidence of"?????

    BTW – do you know what the words "absolute" and "incontrovertible" mean??? Those words must mean something different if you're a Republiturd.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. flickerman

    I want you to know Vickie Thrasher is Not a Rabbit.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Harry A. Mitchell III

    All you Obama haters better stock up on kleenex as you're going to need them come November 7, 2012!

    May 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Republican Proud

      The war on Terror is Over??????

      May 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. lamb of God

    yawn ..so fake

    May 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
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