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. Bob

    We'll see what develops, but I wouldn't put it past either the Dems or Reps to play one of these captures up. They'll do anything to stay or obtain power, not quite terrorists, but they invoke the same fear that Bush did after 911.

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

      Well put, Bob.

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

      yeah right just like what happened to at Lockerbie, our own intelligence agency blew that one up, how dumb are we as americans to not see how they are trying to manipulate us

      May 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • STEVE

      Yeah, Obama will do anything to start a war. (snicker)

      May 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jerry the milk

    Why is this top story? This belongs Military Intelligence and government. They are good at it. The news suppose to censor. Why do civilians need to read it?

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

    Let the accusations of fear mongering begin...

    May 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikey

      really ? do you think FAUX NEWS fault on this?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • How do we know...

      How do we know they didn't talk someone into it just so they could be heroes and say they stopped it?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jason

    Very interested to hear more details about this IED, seems like a convenient way to justify the current airport security measures. Curious as to how they found the device and what chance, if any, it had of getting through security

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

    Clearly BUSH was never going to really get things done. Good thing we have Obama in office.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Everett Wallace

    It would be nice if we recieve a heads up we follow through. I doubt we will be getting any more notices let's ramp this up yall without delay. this stuff is rapidly increasing because it has been in place. YOU do not want to get caught with your pants down, Homeland Security get in those airports asap, set up shop, I want you to oversee security.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Peikovianyi

    Jihadi prisoners should be extra saddamized this week.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Question Authority

    Next we will read that the US government provided the fake IED. Another non-event aimed at fooling the sheeple into giving up more of their liberty to the tyranny in D.C.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • martin

      @ question authority- so you think there a conspiracy here hah? Please... I bet you think 9/11 was an inside job too right??? come one bud, put the pipe down...

      May 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yakobi

      I didn't realize how many tinfoil-hat-wearing morons there were in this country who would rather be blown up than secure.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Gerald

    Gee Bob I kinda fear our buildings being blown up, especially with people in them. Keeping citizins safe should not be confused with fear mongering.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • How do we know...

      i keep thinking its the banksters trying to recruit. you know how they love wars.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Peikovianyi

    Paranoid cynics should just go ahead and shoot yourselves in the face.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Portland tony

    This isn't news......It's gossip!

    May 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jake

    Our course, the right wing, conservaties, tea partiers, and other nutjobs will give credit for this to President Romney. Oh wait....Romney is NOT the President, Obama is the President. Oh well, they will give credit to others then, not President Obama. The usual line from them, "he didn't stop it", it was this agency or that agency. But if it were Romney, they be shouting praises to him for stopping it. Such hypocrites, like we don't know the real reason you'll never give him credit for anything...the skin.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Thelma

    Hey CNN, get back to us when you have some actual facts to report. This is not a helpful article. Anyone traveling in the next couple weeks doesn't need fearmongering, just facts. Thank you.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Patrick Henry

    Somewhere out there is a very exhausted tail from wagging its dog so much!! Seriously?! Do they think that we fell off of the turnip truck yesterday?

    May 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Arran Webb

    Someone inadvertently left their 2" blade metal pocket knife attached to their key ring before a flight. They passed security at JFK, then again at LAX as they boarded a flight to Australia. Two weeks later they board in Sydney for a direct to Houston TX. It was going though security at Houston for flight back to NY that the 2" metal pocket knife was finally discovered. That was the fourth security inspection! Naturally it was a legal to carry state that found the knife.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • cpc65

      Sounds like the need Paul Hogan as a TSA inspector. "You call that a knife? This is a KNIFE!"

      May 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
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