Nightly News | May 07, 2012
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: There has been a lot of talk of late tied to the first anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden that al-Qaeda as an organization has been greatly weakened and is much less effective without its senior leadership. But we begin here tonight with fresh evidence of continued efforts to attack the United States . Officials are telling us the CIA thwarted a plot by an al-Qaeda branch in Yemen to detonate a bomb on a US bound jetliner using a powerful explosive and a more sophisticated new device intended to clear airport metal detectors. We are still learning more about this. It's where we begin tonight with our justice correspondent Pete Williams . Pete , good evening. And, Brian , American officials are saying tonight that this is a big success story for international intelligence cooperation, detecting the plot well in advance, monitoring it closely, and then shutting it down and actually recovering the device that al-Qaeda intended a suicide bomber to use. The target was to be a passenger airliner bound for the US, though officials say no specific flight had been chosen and no ticket had been purchased. The plot, they say, was to originate in Yemen , and a potential suicide bomber had actually been identified. They say the plan was to use an upgraded version of the underwear bomb worn by Umar Abdulmutallab , who tried to set it off on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit in 2009 . That failed to work properly and simply caught fire. He's now serving a sentence of life in prison. This latest attempt, officials say, including a different detonation system, but as with the earlier device, no metal parts. Officials say the US is now evaluating whether this latest device could have been detected by airport full body scanners that are deployed here and at many airports for US bound flights. Intelligence officials say the device was almost certainly made by the top bomb maker for al-Qaeda in Yemen , Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri , the same man suspected of designing the 2009 underwear bomb and the devices hidden in laser printer cartridges intercepted on overseas air cargo shipments destined for Chicago two years ago.
Secretary LEON PANETTA (Defense Secretary): What this incident makes clear is that this country has to continue to remain vigilant against those that would seek to attack this country, and we will do everything necessary to keep America safe.
Mr. ROGER CRESSEY (NBC News Terrorism Analyst): This demonstrates al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula 's continued priority on aviation security as a target. AQAP , as it's known, is the number one affiliate in the al-Qaeda network and this is another example of why they're still a threat.
P. WILLIAMS: The US is more concerned about al-Qaeda in Yemen than any other terror group. Just yesterday, US officials say, a top al-Qaeda operative, Fahd al-Quso , was killed in an airstrike. He was wanted for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors. And an administration official tells us tonight that the FBI has been analyzing the device for the past week, studying its composition and potential
destructive force. Brian: All right. Pete Williams in our Washington newsroom. Pete , thanks.