United States authorities, with the help of an insider, recently thwarted a bomb plot by al-Qaeda to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner with an upgraded version of the underwear bomb. A similar bomb didn't detonate on Christmas Day 2009 while on a Detroit-bound flight. FBI explosives experts are currently conducting analysis on the refined underwear bomb, a non-metallic device that could have been difficult to detect through security screenings.
According to NBC News' Pete Williams and Robert Windrem, the double agent who worked with the U.S. on the foiled bomb plot in Yemen was the one chosen for the suicide attack. An unidentified Yemeni government official told the reporters that the insider was part of the plot from the very first day.
U.S. officials also told NBC News that the insider also handed the U.S. information that allowed the drone strike that killed the operations chief of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Fahd al Quso. Quso was killed Sunday in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. Republican congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that the bomb plot is linked to Quso's death.
I was told by the White House they are connected, they're part of the same operation, and that's why I said this operation is still ongoing, King said. The congressman also suggested to Fox News that the Obama administration may have misled the public when it stayed mum about al Qaeda's latest suicide bomber attempt.
The Obama administration confirmed the foiled bomb plot on Monday. In April, a month before Osama bin Laden's one-year death anniversary, federal officials said there was no credible threat linked to the date, but that law enforcement must remain alert.
On Tuesday King called for a review of how the government goes about informing the public of events related to top-secret information.
I think we have to find a better way in the future to see or at least do [a review on] how we can tell the public, what we should tell the public, King told Fox News.
Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told Today's Ann Curry that America is better off since the foiled bomb plot. However, he said because of the release of details to the public, there has been some loss to U.S. anti-terrorism operations.
I understand the desire to know exactly how these operations develop, but the fact is [al Qaeda] now know the partnership we have with the Saudis, he said. They now are going to look for future operatives and question them more stringently. It's going to make it a little bit harder for us to get people on the inside again and foil the next plot.
Leiter also said the Saudi Arabian government is fine with people knowing about its strategic partnership with the U.S. However, they don't generally like when details are released to the public.
In that sense any time that we can't control sensitive information about sensitive operations, it absolutely makes foreign governments less likely to cooperate and provide their secrets to us so we can push these operations forward, he said.