U.S. Clams Up on Xmas Airline Bomb ‘Plot’

Tuesday, December 2, 2014
By Paul Martin

Shane Harris

American officials, quick to draw attention to seemingly minor terror threats, were strangely tight-lipped about an alleged plan to take down passenger jets.

U.S. officials are curiously mum about an alleged al Qaeda plot to bomb commercial airliners in a “spectacular” attack around the Christmas holidays.

The alleged plan was first reported in the British publication Express, citing anonymous security sources. These sources supposedly said that airport officials in the United Kingdom were told to prepare for “the big one,” a bombing by al Qaeda against five planes filled with holiday travelers. And the contours of the alleged attack bore alarming similarities to what U.S. intelligence officials described in September as an al Qaeda plan to bomb commercial airliners using explosive materials that can be hidden in electronic devices and cannot be detected by some airport security technology. Fears that the plot was in the final stages helped prompt U.S. airstrikes against al Qaeda positions in Syria.

But on Monday, American officials weren’t saying whether the latest plot is real or just based on recycled reports from earlier this year. A senior U.S. official told The Daily Beast that the British news report didn’t seem credible but provided no specific information. The publication said the plot was first uncovered by American intelligence. But multiple U.S. officials, including from the Transportation Security Administration, which handles airport security in the United States, referred questions to the Homeland Security Department. Officials there have yet to respond to multiple requests for comment.

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