Dylan Ratigan Show   |  October 29, 2010

What was the objective of terror threat?

NBC's Richard Engel discuses the investigation into two suspicious packages on U.S.-bound flights, bound from Yemen.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the headline from the president, an answer to our question confirming that they did identify explosive material in the two packages intercepted. one in dubai and one in london. both originating out of yemen . richard engel sits with me here. put this in the context of other attempts.

>> it's a small attempt. like somebody trying to send letter bombs from yemen to these jewish centers of worship in chicago . if you take it at face value, those are hard kinds of attacks to stop. anyone can send letter bombs and they cdo. you don't always catch them. the fact they caught these is very, very inpressive. the question is, was that the objective? to send and have a jewish person open them up in chicago and try and cause harm. was that what this is about or was it about doing a tiny thing, how much would it have cost to put this together? a few hundred dollars? and to see what the reaction is. how all the american security pieces come together. to see how we react. does it get through? does it not. if you really want to carry out an attack somewhere else, sending it by an international shipper through several countries from yemen addressed to synagogues in chicago is probably not the way to do it. i can't imagine something that would have more red flags .

>> roger cressey , we were discussing that earlier, suggested these packages were intercepted before they made it to synagogue in chicago . a modest endorsement if not a strong endorsement of the system.

>> it is. the fact they got them and they were detected is a good thing. not many packages come out of yemen . i spoke with a yemeni official, said i'm hearing these came out of yemen and are heading toward a synagogue and jewish center in chicago . he said, that's very strange. he said the only people that would be sending something to a synagogue would be members of the jewish assembly seeking asylum.

>> could the threat from yemen in the context of the u.s. war on terror so to speak --

>> if this is the threat of global terrorism, i think people in america can deal with it. call down with this one. a couple of tiny little bombs in the mail from yemen , if that's all we have to worry about, i think american security services can handle that.

>> but if you put that type of a threat or set that aside, but if you put the context of yemen , which has come up a few times now as the hot bed, meeting place --

>> yemen is high on the list. not the only place. somalia is high on the list as well. there have been many european attacks that have come out of somalia . a state of lawlessness in somalia . yemen is also a real problem because al- qaeda and the arabian peninsula is an active al- qaeda cell. it is trying to attack the united states unlike other militant groups. they are driven by al- qaeda ideology, but their fight is home. this group has said it wants to come here.

>> and what is your understanding?

>> the government is very friendly. they want to help. they just don't have that much capacity and to try to stop someone putting a homemade bomb into a package, i think people could probably get through in this country in some cases.

>> if you were to look at what happens next, if you were to look at trying to find out where these packages came from, what are our capableties to track down the mailer in this case?

>> pretty strong, actually. we have a lot of cooperation in yemen . we have trained some of the counterterrorism forces. the fbi works in yemen . there are allies in yemen who want to work with american security forces to try and track down this person. are you going to get the person who put it in the mail? maybe, maybe not. there are also parts of yemen where the u.s. and yemen government don't have a lot of reach. there are some tribal areas beyond the government's control.

>> to the extent to which the interception is an endorsement of the system, is it an endorsement of the survey of cargo as it boards?

>> intelligence tip. very specific. that.

>> so trs a phone call that says there's letter bombs coming out of yemen going to synagogues, go find them.

>> there are not that many packages coming out to the every day. they said, how many addressed to synagogues. you