WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is further increasing aviation security in response to intelligence indicating Islamist terrorists were planning another attack on the United States.
The new regulations — which are to be announced later Thursday — were not described in detail, but a senior U.S. official told NBC News on condition of anonymity that they would include further in-flight restrictions in passengers’ movement, more random pre-flight screening of passengers and an increase in the number of federal air marshals on flights.
“In view of the event of Christmas Day we must remain vigilant about the continued threat we face from al-Qaida,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement after NBC News disclosed the new measures. “We are taking an additional set of aviation security precautions to protect the American people.”
The tightened security comes after U.S. officials said new intelligence data suggested that the al-Qaida offshoot in the Arabian country of Yemen was planning another attack on the United States. A British-based Nigerian man affiliated with the group is believed to have been responsible for the aborted attempt to bomb a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.
The new intelligence was first reported Wednesday by NBC News, which quoted three U.S. officials as saying the intelligence was considered credible. The officials would not describe the information or say whether it indicated a specific target or date.
“No one believes al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has stopped planning for attacks on the United States,” one of the officials said. “No one believes that the events of December 25 are the last we will see of these guys.”
A second official said the information did not come from interrogation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who pleaded not guilty this week to trying to ignite an explosive in his underpants on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
President Barack Obama called the attack an attempted strike against the United States and said the government had information that could have stopped Abdulmutallab but failed to connect the dots.
By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com with Pete Williams and Robert Windrem of NBC News.