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Report: CIA Foils Al-Qaeda Underwear Bomb Plot

By Alexandra Jaffe

National Journal

Volunteers pass through a full body scanner during a 2010 media demonstration at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. It was uncertain whether body scanning technology would have revealed a recently busted plot to detonate a concealed explosive on an aircraft (AP Photo/Spencer Green). Volunteers pass through a full body scanner during a 2010 media demonstration at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. It was uncertain whether body scanning technology would have revealed a recently busted plot to detonate a concealed explosive on an aircraft (AP Photo/Spencer Green).

The CIA foiled an al-Qaida-backed bomb plot out of Yemen, the Associated Press reported on Monday, that aimed to take down an airplane headed for the U.S. (see GSN, May 1).

The attack was planned around last week's anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, and the suicide bomber planned to use an upgraded version of the underwear bomb that failed during an attempted attack on Christmas in 2009. The FBI is currently investigating the bomb to better understand whether airport security measures would have caught it before it could reach a plane. Though the bomb contains no metal, meaning it would make it through a metal detector, it's unclear whether the controversial full-body scanners would reveal it.

The Associated Press said the bomb is suspected to have been made by Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, one of al-Qaida's top bomb makers who also constructed the first underwear bomb.

Though the AP learned about the incident last week, the organization agreed not to publish the information due to security concerns. However, they published on Monday in spite of requests from the White House to hold off until the official announcement, to take place on Tuesday.
At the White House, Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said President Obama was informed about the plot in April by his counterterror adviser John Brennan and received regular updates.

"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," Hayden said. "The disruptions of this IED plot underscores the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad."

At a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta added little information. "We will do everything to keep America safe," Panetta said.

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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