Could airport scanners detect latest Al Qaeda non-metal bomb? (+video)
A covert CIA operation in Yemen intercepted an 'undetectable' bomb intended to blow up an airplane. Authorities suspect it was the work of master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri. Al-Asiri, who built the first underwear bomb.
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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Monday night that she had been briefed Monday about an "undetectable" device that was "going to be on a U.S.-bound airliner."Skip to next paragraph
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There were no immediate plans to change security procedures at U.S. airports.
U.S. officials declined to say where the CIA seized the bomb. The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or purchased plane tickets when the CIA seized the bomb, officials said. It was not immediately clear what happened to the would-be bomber.
President Barack Obama had been monitoring the operation since last month, the White House said Monday evening. White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the president 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.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 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. And it a reminder of how we have to keep vigilant." Clinton spoke during a news conference Tuesday in New Delhi with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
The operation unfolded even as the White House and Homeland Security Department assured the public that they knew of no al-Qaida plots against the U.S. around the anniversary of bin Laden's death.
On May 1, the Homeland Security Department 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 AP learned about the thwarted plot last week but agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish a story 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 Homeland Security acknowledged the existence of the bomb late Monday. 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.
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. Al-Asiri constructed the first underwear bomb and two others that Al Qaeda built into printer cartridges and shipped to the U.S. on cargo planes in 2010.