CIA thwarts 'undetectable' al-Qaida bomb plot

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during a news conference with China's Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie, not seen, at the Pentagon, Monday, May 7, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during a news conference with China's Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie, not seen, at the Pentagon, Monday, May 7, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said Monday.

The plot involved an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger's underwear, but this time al-Qaida developed a more refined detonation system, U.S. officials said.

The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Monday that she had been briefed about an "undetectable" device that was "going to be on a U.S.-bound airliner."

There were no immediate plans to change security procedures at U.S. airports.

The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It's not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said President Barack Obama learned about the plot in April and was assured the device posed no threat to the public.

"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," Hayden said.

The operation unfolded even as the White House and Department of Homeland Security assured the American public that they knew of no al-Qaida plots against the U.S. around the anniversary of bin Laden's death. The operation was carried out over the past few weeks, officials said.

"We have no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the anniversary of bin Laden's death," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on April 26.

On May 1, the Department of Homeland Security said, "We have no indication of any specific, credible threats or plots against the U.S. tied to the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death."

The White House did not explain those statements Monday.

The AP learned about the thwarted plot last week but agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way. Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security acknowledged the existence of the bomb late Monday, but there were no immediate plans to adjust security procedures at airports. Other officials, who were briefed on the operation, insisted on anonymity to discuss details of the plot, many of which the U.S. has not officially acknowledged.

"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," the FBI said in a statement.

It's not clear who built the bomb, but, because of its sophistication and its similarity to the Christmas bomb, counterterrorism officials suspected it was the work of master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri or one of his protégées. Al-Asiri constructed the first underwear bomb and two others that al-Qaida built into printer cartridges and shipped to the U.S. on cargo planes in 2010.

Both of those bombs used a powerful industrial explosive. Both were nearly successful.

The operation is an intelligence victory for the United States and a reminder of al-Qaida's ambitions, despite the death of bin Laden and other senior leaders. Because of instability in the Yemeni government, the terrorist group's branch there has gained territory and strength. It has set up terrorist camps and, in some areas, even operates as a de facto government.

But along with the gains there also have been losses. The group has suffered significant setbacks as the CIA and the U.S. military focus more on Yemen. On Sunday, Fahd al-Quso, a senior al-Qaida leader, was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle along with another operative in the southern Shabwa province of Yemen.

Al-Quso, 37, was on the FBI's most wanted list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He was indicted in the U.S. for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, in which 17 American sailors were killed and 39 injured.

Al-Quso was believed to have replaced Anwar al-Awlaki as the group's head of external operations. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike last year.

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Comments » 14

staghorn writes:

this kind of stuff never happened when george w bush was president.

BobinNaples writes:

But, but, but there was no terror alert. Poor republicans didn't know it was code orange and that they were supposed to worry!

JunkYardDog_1 (Inactive) writes:

The Obama did it, Obama did it crowd shows up. Too funny!

It clearly states in the headline "CIA thwarts 'undetectable' al-Qaida bomb plot"

NeezDutz writes:

Wonder if it was one of the insurgents he let go
http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/...

mr_1_term_proposition writes:

Not much mentioned about the 17 civilians who lost their lives by the terrorists protest bombing of your liar, failure and corrupt chief's visit and taxpayer funded visit overseas. Thanks for killing 17 civilians obama.

ocelot_snake writes:

"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,"

In one year the republicans will say he thanked no one and took all credit

MisterK writes:

Why is there a U.S. bound jet liner flying from Yemen? Shouldn't those direct flights not exist at this time? Will we be seeing this underwear in a Hanes commercial with Michael Jordan?

2konks2mom writes:

Obama's running for reelection, what can you expect?

Sick writes:

I thought Obama just signed a peace deal with these people over there?

I knew it was all a lie.

terrarock writes:

You gotta love when a senator is "briefed" about an underwear bomb! And isn't "Undetectable" a line of Victoria Secret panties?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Monday that she had been briefed about an "undetectable" device that was "going to be on a U.S.-bound airliner."

HAP writes:

Just proves dumbo has no clue and is a liar.
And, our Homeland idiot security has no plans to change any airport security? We will all be dead if they don't all get removed from the White House.

MarcoRobert writes:

First, thanks to our CIA, DOD and Secial Ops!

Next. No kidding here, no party lines, no dems or reps -- elephants or donkeys. WE ARE AT WAR!

Anyone who does not understand this, put down the friggin' WSJ and pick up the NYT or the Wash Post and READ. Maybe drop by a US History class at one of your kid's school.

Wait till you fly down here to RSW and the TSB wants to check out EVERYONE's underpants.

They are trying to figure a way to put just enough explosive into your BVDs or Granny Panties that will put a hole juuuuussstt big enough to put a jumbo jet into any US City!

OK, here's the tough part -- forget about who's going to be in the White House next year... How are we stop this, and how quickly can we get this done? We might as well start writing a Constitutional Amendment to deal with the ACLU and the rights that will be violated. Then, ANY aircraft flying into the USA should be routed to one of a few airports, located on either coast, where all passengers, crew, luggage and cargo are screened. Then everyone gets new TSA UNDERPANT(ies), and a connecting flight.

Seriously, anyone have any lightbulbs going on in their head. And, please...remember there are religious zealots, smart zealots (many educated here) who are intent on doing intense harm to our country -- Us, our kids and grandkids over however many generations over countless tears.

How are we, The USA, going to fix this one?

PlumSmuggler writes:

Our government is deadlier than any outside threat could ever be! This is all a bunch of red herring'd BS, designed to think of new ways to eradicate our freedoms & liberties.

Captian_Cataracts writes:

Sure they did. Now I guess we'll have to travel sans luggage * fly nekid.

Maybe if the US Gov't wasn't killing these foriegners familes this war would stop. Just a thought.

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