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Security unchanged over 'undetectable' plane bomb

By Eileen Sullivan and Kimberly Dozier

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:11 a.m. HST, May 08, 2012

WASHINGTON >>Despite the discovery of a sophisticated new al-Qaida airline bomb plot, congressional and security officials suggested no immediate need Tuesday to change to airport security procedures, which already subject shoeless passengers to intrusive pat-downs and body scans.

The CIA, with help from a well-placed informant and foreign intelligence services, conducted a covert operation in Yemen in recent weeks that disrupted a nascent suicide plot and recovered a new bomb, U.S. officials said.

Officials said the bomb represents an upgrade over 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.

FBI experts are picking apart that non-metallic device to see if it could have slipped through security and taken down an airplane.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials sought to reassure the public that security measures at airports are strong. They said there are no immediate plans to subject airline passengers to new security screenings.

"I think people getting on a plane today should feel confident that their intelligence services are working, day in and day out," John Brennan, the top counterterrorism adviser to President Barack Obama, said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Just last winter, al-Qaida's Yemen branch boasted that it had obtained a supply of chemicals used to make bombs. Chemicals can eliminate the need for electrical equipment to detonate explosives.

"Hence, no wearisome measures are taken anymore to attain the needed large amount of chemicals for explosives," the group wrote in its online magazine, "Inspire."

Working with an informant close to al-Qaida in Yemen, the CIA caught wind of the bomb plot last month, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The would-be bomber was supposed to buy a plane ticket to the United States and detonate the bomb inside the country, officials said.

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

Before the bomber could choose his target or buy his ticket, however, the CIA swooped in and seized the bomb.

The fate of the would-be bomber remains unclear. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN on Tuesday that White House officials told him "He is no longer of concern," a point Brennan echoed on a round of appearances Tuesday on television news shows.

"We're confident that this device and any individual that might have been designed to use it are no longer a threat to the American people," Brennan said.

The plot was a reminder of the ambitions of al-Qaida in Yemen, the most active and dangerous branch of the terrorist group. While al-Qaida's core in Pakistan has been weakened over the past decade, instability in Yemen has allowed an offshoot group to thrive and set up training camps there. In some parts of the country, al-Qaida is even the de facto government.

Though analysis of the device is incomplete, U.S. security officials said they remained confident in the security systems that were in place.

"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," Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said.

"The device did not appear to pose a threat to the public air service, but the plot itself indicates that these terrorist keep trying to devise more and more perverse and terrible ways to kill innocent people," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a news conference in New Delhi with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

It's not clear who built the bomb, but because of its sophistication and its similarity to the Christmas Day bomb, authorities suspected it was the work of master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri or one of his students. 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.

But the group has also 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 killed 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.

The new Yemeni president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has promised improved cooperation with the U.S. to combat the militants. On Saturday, he said the fight against al-Qaida was in its early stages. Hadi took over in February from longtime authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.


Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Alan Fram in Washington and Matthew Lee in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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Keith_Rollman wrote:
He detonated when the SEALS gave him a wedgie.
on May 7,2012 | 12:03PM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Profiling works where metal detectors fail. Does require a working brain in TSA.
on May 8,2012 | 10:19AM
Changalang wrote:
Mess with the Bull; get the horns. All terrorist scvm should keep in mine that your supposed "brothers" will always rat you out; ALWAYS. Just ask the last guys in the Wadi Rafad valley in Shabwa. Oh wait; you can't anymore. :)
on May 7,2012 | 12:06PM
kuewa wrote:
Mahalo to the CIA and FBI for a job well done ! Now I'll wait to see how the Romneyites and the TPers turn this into a criticism of the President.
on May 7,2012 | 02:03PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
The idea that someone "bombed" in their underwear sounds yucky.
on May 7,2012 | 05:49PM
stingray65 wrote:
I hope he wears a clean underwear!! Because after that it will be very messy underwear...LOL
on May 7,2012 | 10:07PM
st1d wrote:
predictions: a market for lycra thongs, shirts, and medieval tights for traveling public; increased enthusiastic pat downs by tsa; and clothing limited to 3mm thickness total no matter how layered the attire, hence, the lycra market.
on May 7,2012 | 06:09PM
Ripoff wrote:
Strap him to the next warhead via his bvd's and drop um on his terrorist friends lol
on May 7,2012 | 07:54PM
scooters wrote:
Yemen is such a small piss ant country, you have to wonder why this POS is still walking around. Send in the SEAL's!
on May 7,2012 | 08:02PM
scooters wrote:
Yemen is such a small @$#@ country, you have to wonder why this POS is still walking around. Any US Funds going there should be stopped until all these ragheads are removed, feet first. Send in the SEAL's...
on May 7,2012 | 08:03PM
IAmSane wrote:

So brave.

─ ─ ─ ─ ─ ─ ▄ ▌ ▐ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▌
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on May 7,2012 | 08:38PM
Toneyuki wrote:
Would you prefer camel washers?
on May 7,2012 | 09:01PM
IAmSane wrote:
I dunno. Shut up.

─ ─ ─ ─ ─ ─ ▄ ▌ ▐ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▀ ▌
─ ─ ─ ▄ ▄ █ █ ▌ █ ♥ repost if you're a big beautiful truck▐
▄ ▄ ▄ ▌ ▐ █ █ ▌ █ ░♥ ░ who don't need no man ░ ♥ ░ ...░░ ▐
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on May 7,2012 | 09:51PM
Toneyuki wrote:
3 things. First Good Job CIA! Second, So all these enhanced body searches probably wouldn't have made a difference? Third, (kuewa this is a legit question not just political) the AP sat on the story for HOW LONG? Don't remember them EVER doing that for a Republican admin.
on May 7,2012 | 09:04PM
64hoo wrote:
we should do what isrealis working on and may already have it. its an airport security device where you do not have to have full body scans where you feel your privacy is invaded you step into an armoured booth that dos'nt take body x-rays but will detonate any bomb that people have on there person. a bomb proof booth would be a great way to stop terriosts from bringing bombs aboard planes.
on May 7,2012 | 11:09PM
saveparadise wrote:
I like this one. The booths should be outside the terminal before you enter along with your luggage.
on May 8,2012 | 09:41AM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
A new and improved underwear bomb that cannot be detected by electronic methods. Well, I guess that means the only way to find such a bomb is for someone to actually reach his/her hand inside your underwear when you go through the airport. Woo-hoo! And they don't even have to take you to dinner first (although they will promise you a movie for afterward).
on May 8,2012 | 06:12AM
kainalu wrote:
Be afraid! Be very afraid! The terrorists are coming!
on May 8,2012 | 07:15AM
saveparadise wrote:
It is a miracle that these fanatics have not found a way to bring down another plane since 911..... or have they? We really don't know the truth behind any airline crashes other than what we see on the news.
on May 8,2012 | 09:06AM
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