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. thelittlefeline

    Of course she's a rabbit. Unbelievable disingenuinity!

    May 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. WM

    Why are said terrorists who are intent on bringing down aircraft just using surface to air missiiles? Wouldn't that be a whole lost easier? This stinks to high heaven...literally.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      I am going to guess it is much easier to make a bomb than to get a SAM without setting of alarms somewhere. Im not seeing how this stinks.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Yeah, you can pick up a six pack of them at Walmart.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    New TSA mandate, 111 One glove, one butt, one check.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Too Much

    There's so many ways to wreak havoc. Even Bin Laden was steering his nutjobs away from airplanes and wanted
    more devastating results. Some days, I gotta remind myself that the medieval past could be just as horrendous,e.g.,
    getting a free bar b q on you if you were suspected of being a witch, marching lockstep into battle, certain disease
    run rampant, etc.. If I'm going to die in a random blast, so be it. I'll enjoy what modern times has to offer, anyway.
    Peace.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kana

    Oh great, now we won't be allowed to wear underwear and toddlers, elderly and handicapped will have to endure enhanced security screenings.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angela

      And yet you will be alive.

      May 7, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • AcclaimedMan

      Please arrive at the airport naked, and you don't have to worry about security check, because you will drive half of the lady TSA staff, and the rest will be dumb founded, and you will zoom through the gate !!!

      Happy?

      May 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. martin2176

    wow !!

    May 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frank

    Have fun reducing the budget, without which, the infrastructure wouldn't be in place to fund the programs and people to help stop these attacks. Your freedoms haven't been lost or reduced or infringed upon – not one bit. But, you and all the other Ron Paul-ites can go along with him and his policies. And while you're at it, it's al-Qaida or al-Qaeda...

    May 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Darlene Buckingham

    Now we have the No threat bombs happening on a regular basis. So when are full X-rays and body cavity searches coming to our Airports? Soon everyone will have to be strip searched to leave their own home. It should be the other way around. All officials stay in the office and use the phone/Computer conferences. No security expenses and they are safe in their own office/home. Its easier for the elites to stay where they are then for the rest of the world to be strip searched to be able to go anywhere in safety.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sharky

    The guy never got to the plane.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. saywhat

    @ Big Paulie
    This is sure to generate a lot of flak. Holocaust on our soil & most Western countries is a subject treated with a reverence reserved for highest of sacred religious subjects. Questioning it is taboo and almost a crime.

    On the foiled bomb plot, it was Saudis like in the case of 'Underwear' bomber who tipped off the authorities.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Leo

    I would like to say "GREAT JOB" to all of the men and women. That are out there doing what you do to keep us all safe at home. That yellow ribbon has a Oak tree right in the middle of it in my yard. Thank you!!!!!

    May 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. David Lake

    the headline reads "Attempt to blow up plane thwarted"
    After you read the entire article, they found a device that is capable of blowing up in a foriegn country, with apparently no one nearby. Sooooo. how is it again a thwarted attempt? How the heck did they know where it was destined? You know what thwarted means? Ill tell you. You stop an act about to occur just prior to it happening, and there are no CIA and FBI plants among the terrorist. Because if there are, it NEVER was a threat was it???

    May 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. caliconor

    I'm not a big conspiracy theorist, but it really seems odd that there's always a big terrorist plot foiled when it's leading up to a Presidential election.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Big Paulies Doc

    Big Paulie, so that's where you are. Been looking for you ever since you ran from the nuthouse. You really need to come in for your frontal lobotomy.

    May 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MZGUGU

    IF YOU BELEIVE THAT THEN THIS IS STILL SECRET THAT YOU NEED MENTAL TREATMENT

    May 7, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
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