CIA agents who thwarted al-Qaeda plot discover new bomb designs
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
U.S. counterterrorism officials said U.S. international intelligence agencies thwarted an attempt by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a statement released on Monday. What surprised many counterterrorism experts was the sophistication of the upgrade of the so-called underwear bomb.
The White House said that President Barack Obama was made aware in April of an al-Qaeda affiliate’s foiled plot to blow up a U.S.-bound passenger airplane.
While no solid indications that the terrorist group al-Qaeda or its allies, such as Al-Shabbab, Boko Haram, and others, are plotting operations of revenge, counterterrorism experts have voiced their concerns and believe “it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
This thwarted terrorist plot revealed a modernized version of the “underwear bomb” that failed to detonate aboard a plane arriving at Detroit International Airport on Christmas Day 2009. This upgraded bomb was designed to be used in a passenger’s underwear, but contained a more a refined detonation system, U.S. law enforcement bomb technicians told the Law Enforcement Examiner.
“The 2009 IED [improvised explosive device] was amateurish compared to this upgraded device. It was also designed to pass through airport security screening equipment and metal detectors,” said a veteran bomb tech.
The would-be suicide bomber had not yet chosen a specific target nor did he purchase an airline ticket when he was captured by agents from the CIA.
While there are still numerous unanswered questions due to security concerns, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged the seizure of an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to carry out a terrorist attack in press statements.
FBI officials said they are in possession of the explosive device and conducting technical and forensics analysis on it. Initial examination indicates that the device is quite similar to the IEDs that have been used by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in terrorist attacks.
Both the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have said they were not aware of any al-Qaeda threats against the country around the anniversary of the killing of bin Laden on May 1.
“At this time, we have no credible information that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the anniversary of bin Laden’s death,” White House press secretary Jay Carney stated on April 26.
Earlier this year, U.S. government counterterrorism officials warned American and foreign airlines that terrorists may be planning to upgrade improvised explosive devices in an effort to defeat airport security screening. One such device could be surgically implant bombs inside the bodies of airline passengers.
The threat brings new meaning to the term “suicide bomber” and “improvised explosive device,” one official told the Law Enforcement Examiner.
“Recent intelligence brought to light the possible terrorist scheme but no specific plot had been uncovered,” according to a press release from the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on Fox News Channel that a bomb implanted in airline passengers is something government security officials have been worried about for “a while.” “This is a concern about human bombs,” King said. “We believe we’ve informed everyone.”
A U.S. security official told the Law Enforcement Examiner that a body bomb implanted is likely to come from overseas rather than domestically and that precautionary steps have been taken internationally and in the United States to be on guard for such terrorism suspects.
In August 2009, an al-Qaeda suicide bomber, Abdullah Hassan Tali Assiri, attacked and injured Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef with a bomb concealed in a body cavity after passing through two airport scanners, Rep. King said on Fox News.
King and TSA officials would not say if the full-body scanners currently employed at U.S. airports would detect bombs implanted in a human. Also, there are questions as to the vulnerability of these body bombs to radio waves, cell phones or scanners.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.