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. JSL

    gauch ya!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    Of course they caught one, just months before an election for President. Fishy!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      Timing of an incident does not equal proof that it was contrived. Do you seriously believe terrorists would NOT take advantage of the same time frame?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer


      Factless conspiracy theory. Are you still upset because Obama got bin Laden after Bush didn't care?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob's your uncle

      I guess, now that this is an election year, that we should give up trying to thwart these efforts until the election is over.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • dij

      Unfortunately for people like YOU, it did not blow up the plane and thus, can not be used by the GOP campaign that this Gov sucks in providing national security... what sick group of people you are!

      May 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Observer


    Pictures of the dead bin Laden were shown to Congress. Sorry you missed that story on the news. Even FOX News carried it.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keksi

      You mean FAKE pictures where shown to Congress and they thought they were real.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Tin Foil Brigade Is Here

      Time for a fitting, Kekski.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. insight

    Thank you President Obama for staying on top of things. If I can remember Bush was warned about 9/11 months before it happened... I believe he "blew it off". Republican and just sayin.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Metro

      Jeez your an idiot....

      May 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • fearlessdude

      Actually, Cheney told Bush to relax and play golf, "I am the President here"

      May 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Um.... What?! I'm pretty sure it was the Clinton administration that had the opportunity to take Osama out.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Walker

    When underwear is outlawed, only outlaws will have underwear. Yet they arrest the guy who took off all his clothes going through security.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Thomas Menino

    God_Damn Muslims

    May 7, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Now Why

    Too bad Bush wasn't as diligent, maybe we would have never had a 9/11 in the first place.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • XxMacleodxX

      so you are saying Clinton's failure to get Bin Laden from the get go is to blame?......this is your logic

      May 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. XxMacleodxX

    so why are we in afghanistan when it seems like all the terrorists are in yemen?

    May 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. PB

    Only letting on 3.7 oz of liquids in a 1 qt bag onto planes helped!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. New One

    They'll never let us see it of course, National Security.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Observer


    First you claim they offered no proof. Then you admit they did but claim you know they were faked.

    You're a riot. Do some research for ONCE.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. samuraikatana1

    Good lord people the story just broke 5 MINUTES AGO. Give it a chance to develop.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Freedom Fighter

    I want evidence

    May 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tj

    I do believe there are a number of doubting Thomas' here. You believe the drivel coming from other sources. What makes this different? Conspiracy theories? OR does your tiny little mind want to SEE the destruction and loss of life? Would that make it real? Ask the people from Mumbai, New York, London, Syria if they would like to see these things happen so you could say "I get it." This is not a reality show!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dreamer96

    Great Job..Now give that terrorist some booze, and some wacky brownies, and get him to talk to us...
    Fill his cell with hashish smoke...and he will start to talk to us...
    Get him to tell us everything he knows...

    May 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • tj

      That'll take about 5 seconds....

      May 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
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