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)

    More development in security measures.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SDTangler

    Let's take inventory here:
    1) who was it: not announced
    2) what was their affiliation: not announced
    3) what was the device: an improvised explosive device (a lighter can be an IED)
    4) when was this supposed to happen: not announced
    5) where was this supposed to happen: not announced

    This is why we spend more than EVERY OTHER NATION ON THE PLANET, COMBINED on our military? We've gone from, "we have nothing to fear, but fear itself" to a nation of television-addicted whiners. More people will die tonight, driving home from work, than will die this year from terrorism in the US. Disgusting.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      The story just came out. Most of the info will be released later.

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

      better safe than sorry, unless you sympathize with the bombers? do you?

      May 8, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. Big Paulie

    If you read one thing in my post, make it be this next fragment: Osama bin Laden is/was a known CIA asset named Tim Osman, and a simple google search will corroborate this fact. Throughout US history we always needed a bogeyman to keep us afraid and in line. Even as recent as WWII we had the terrible Nazis to fear, then the bloodthirsty Communists, and then the Islamic extremists. As time has shown, none of those groups have at all been a significant threat and were purely propaganda.

    How many times does a bad magician have to attempt the same trick before the audience figures out the secret?

    al Qaeda = CIA/Mossad/MI6/ISI/etc.

    Cross reference the al Qaeda members over time with the original database the CIA compiled of Afghans fighting Soviets in the 80s. Al Qaeda has, and always will be an element of our own government. You're telling me al Qaeda has managed to cause so much mayhem Worldwide, yet they haven't carried out one single attack on US soil in over a decade?! Al Qaeda didn't retaliate for Tim Osman's (oops, I mean bin Laden's) "death?" Every shepherd knows you herd sheep with fear, that's what the dogs are for. I look around at all of these ewes and see big dogs with al Qaeda name tags keeping them scared enough to submit to draconian measures.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Im sure they are planning dozens of attacks. Stop being stupid.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality Checker

      Are you talking about the fear that Bush/Cheney created with the WMD lies?

      May 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      i googled your reference. the material you cite to us is so stupid and filled with "maybes" and in "all certainties" that it falls below the most elementary proof of anything but your gullibility. in fact, from the tenor of your posts, i dont doubt that you are the one that posted the crap you cite. anything more relevant or substantial regarding
      tim Osman?

      May 8, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. doubleR

    To all the people who are posting that this is just another "CIA/CNN/Mossad plot," I'm sure you won't mind also posting your qualifications and experience (military and/or civilian intelligence) so that the rest of us are convinced you know what you speak of.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Paulie

      It's called researching, connecting dots, looking at connections in different ways, and overall just using logic and critical thinking skills. You don't need any degree to not be fooled by propaganda, you just need to do your own fact finding.

      If the US told you tomorrow that it is important we sign a global warming initiative to save the North Pole from melting and keep Santa and his elves employed, would you take that at face value or be a skeptic and start attacking the points that make no sense in order?

      To answer your question realistically, there are 3 types of humans: marks, con-men, and onlookers. The con-men are out to trick people and can spot a mark a mile away. The onlooker is privy to the con-man's game, so they avoid being conned. The mark asks none of the right questions, and sees none of the red flags. The mark is the con-man's best friend, and the onlooker's best source of entertainment.

      Learn to place filters between yourself and sources of propaganda. Run the claim through your filters and see how much truth remains.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robrob

      Or how they "know" all this supposedly top secret stuff?

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

      be like Big paulie, the classic mark that believes everything he reads. just take a look at the material he cites us to regarding Tim Osman on google! and he calls everyone else a mark! how dumb can dumb be? read Paulie and you will know!

      May 8, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. ELH

    Time to justify one's existence again, Federal Bureau of Investigators?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robrob

      You'd have rather they let the bomb explode?

      May 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kevin

    And we wonder how the Al Qaeda were able to get away with the 9/11 horror nearly 12 years ago.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Yakobi

    The many tinfoil-hat-wearing lunatics posting here would be the first ones to blame the government for NOT protecting them if one of these terrorist attempts was successful. It's as if they'd be happier being blown up than taking off their shoes at the airport. That'd be OK if the terrorists only blew _them_ up, but they take the rest of us with them.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DYBO

    Why do the terrorists go through all the bother? They can sit back and watch us slowly deplete our once great nation. The US is 238 years old. We will never last as long as Rome.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jerry the milk

    Corruption..... Coooooorrrrrupppppttttioooooonnnn.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Moe Glick

    Thanks again to the TSA, another airline bombing has been thwarted. Oh, wait. The TSA had nothing to do with preventing this. Or the underwear bomber. Or the shoe-bomber. Or......

    May 7, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Don

    False flag concocted by the CIA.

    Why does the federal government continue to do stuff like this when most people know it's a false flag? Do they really think we're all mindless sheep?

    May 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      mindless yes, sheep no, just mindless muslim apologists like you singing the palestinian/muslim mantra: woe is me, woe is me, everyone but us has caused our misery" and that is why you send shoe bombers, underwear bombers, subway bombers, times square bombers, bus bombers, train bombers and support acid throwers, well poisoners, church bombers, rocket launchers and whiny muslim apologists everywhere!".

      May 8, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. achepotle

    oh my gosh! This must be the 3rd or 4th utterly miserable attempt in the last 11 years! Maybe they should raise the alert level to Orange! Freedom fries, everyone.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robrob

      Notice we haven't had a successful attack or even a rise in color codes in what, 3+ years? Huh...

      May 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. welcometotheworldofconfusion

    I hear what everyone is saying or more to the point, typing. But all I ask is...... What if it is true? In that case, good job and thanks.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      ditto.the only naysayers are muslim apologists, US haters or are just stupid because what says it isn't true? would you have liked to have been on the detroit bound plane with the underwear bomber? or the plane with the shoe bomber? orin times square? how about in the subway?

      May 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. aj

    great, more incentive to use TSA domestically to clamp down on social freedom and genital privacy

    May 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Seeing "clamp down" and "genital" in the same sentence made me feel briefly uncomfortable for some reason.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Paul

    A bigot revealed. Your hate so distorts your thinking that you have become a danger to the country.

    May 7, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
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