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. April

    Enough of the "WAG THE DOG" ALREADY-that boat has sailed-the biggest threat to our security is our ENORMOUS DEBT–it's the economy stupid!!!!!!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Leroy James

    All the more reason to keep Obama in office, we cannot afford to let the Repblicans fumble,bumble and drop the ball again,

    May 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. oyvavoy

    There is nothing to report if didn't get out of the country.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. newenki

    There are way to many bizarre stories put out by the main stream media these days that one has to wonder what's going on. Why the distractions? What are they hiding from us? Turn off your TVs, burn your newspapers and start asking questions people!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • NewsFirst

      Don't forget your tin foil hat!

      May 7, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. oyvavoy

    Peter Bergen, Wolf Blezer? who are these people?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      if you put up the hookah and once in a while left the islamic center and turned on the big screen TV in your tent, you might know.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cwfusto

    Is like how the FBI create their own 'plots', convincing the people they're about to bust, to go through with it, and then, right at the last moment swoop in and save the day? I guess the CIA was feeling left out.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. WDinDallas

    Put him in Gitmo!

    May 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chitown Jason

    Maybe it's true. Maybe it isn't. Since we can't know for sure, I won't care.

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

    of course, another ploy for funding.....all these foiled attempts....tired of seeing the imaginery stories. Let's find something else to write about, becuase this is getting old. I am waiting for the on the knees begging next....what a joke.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      I'd love to see your face if one actually got through.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. oyvavoy

    Weird News

    May 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ton

    If the president was biefed on this back in April, why did they pick today to tell us about it? As "breaking news".

    May 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff S

    "Panetta said. 'We will do everything necessary to keep America safe' "

    Safe from what. Personally I fear tyranny more than I do terrorism. All terrorists can do is take lives. The reach of their actions is limited for they to are limited by time. Tyrants can take our freedom. Their actions can effect entire continents and spread for generations.

    Besides if we lose the battle to protect our freedom what is the point of living? No Tyranny is the bigger threat. And what path we choose now will effect not only, but our children, and their children.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yakobi

      He, Jeff S–you and John Wilkes Booth would have gotten along famously.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nach

      Jeff S, what are you babbling about? The first human right is the right to live. They can do to me all they want, in the airport and out, as long as the planes land safely

      May 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      the word is "affect" not "effect", amazing how use of improper english reveals who you really are and your agenda> dearborn islamic center again?

      May 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NoTax

    another black muslim was happy to kill americans

    May 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Frank Garrett

    Why don't we just put anyone who is from or has been to Yeman on the no fly list?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin Barbieux

    foiled a plan before it became a threat? just more smoke and mirrors – don't look behind the curtain, folks.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robrob

      You'd rather they waited till the bomb was on the plane?

      May 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      if you look behind the curtain you will see ken and his fellow muslim apologist buddies sitting around their hookah at the local islamic center bemoaning the fate of their plane killing buddies

      May 8, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
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