The latest al-Qaeda bomb plot targeting U.S. aircraft was unraveled from inside the terrorist group by operatives — including a double agent — working on behalf of the CIA and its counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, said U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.
The Saudi intelligence service played a particularly important role in penetrating al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen and recovering the explosive device, according to officials, who described an elaborate espionage operation in which the CIA tracked the bomb’s movements for weeks and then killed suspected plotters in a drone strike after the device was seized.
Senior U.S. officials continued to withhold certain details, including the location and status of the individual — described by officials as a Saudi informant — who penetrated the terrorist group posing as a willing suicide bomber and then turned over the device to authorities after leaving Yemen.
But comments by White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan and others made it clear that the involvement of the CIA and its partners went well beyond simply watching the plot unfold.
“We’re confident that neither the device nor the intended user of this device posed a threat to us,” Brennan said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “We had the device in our control, and we were confident that it was not going to pose a threat to the American public.”
The bomb arrived at an FBI laboratory in Quantico about a week ago and is being examined by explosives technicians, law enforcement officials said. One said the explosive was made from a chemical compound that was “built to get around U.S. security and had the potential to do that.”
The emerging details help to illuminate the evolving tactics being employed by both sides in what U.S. officials have come to regard as the most critical counterterrorism front.
The plot shows that al-Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen remains committed to mounting attacks against Western targets even after its most prominent advocate of such strikes, the American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone strike last year.
The disruption of the threat also indicates that the CIA and other agencies have gained significant traction on their target two years after President Obama began deploying more spies, eavesdropping equipment and armed drones to the Arabian Peninsula.
CIA officials declined to comment on the mission. Other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of intelligence operations.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said spy agencies were able to keep tabs on the location of the bomb, as well as those involved in plotting how it would be used, before it was intercepted in another country in the Middle East, thought to be Saudi Arabia.
“We know the route this thing took in terms of its movement,” the official said.
Thank goodness they found this and took it out of circulation! I have no doubt these bastards are continuosly in trying to make bombs that could kill and destroy many Americans and American businesses!! If only they can be taken down one at a time as they try and progress!
This post was modified from its original form on 08 May, 22:08