U.S. and allied officials are convinced that the real maker of the two bombs found on cargo planes in the United Arab Emirates and England is still at large and hope the two women arrested in Yemen will help them track down the person actually responsible for the attempted bombings.
Qatar Airways also disclosed that one of the two bombs mailed from Yemen to Jewish-related addresses in Chicago was on two passenger planes before arriving in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where it was seized by authorities.
John Brennan, the administration’s top terrorism adviser, appeared on all six of the major network morning news shows Sunday. He carried the same message on all – that the interception of the two bombs demonstrated that terrorists are growing more sophisticated and represents a major success for U.S. efforts to work smoothly with allies from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to London.
But Brennan would not rule out that there are more bombs that have yet to be found and said screening procedures for cargo have already been altered.
On ABC’s “This Week,” he left no doubt that officials believe the plot goes well beyond the woman and her mother who were detained Saturday in Yemen as the women who delivered the two packages to the FedEx and UPS offices in that country.
“There are a number of people that are involved in this. And so it is not just these two individuals. We are looking for a lot more,” he said. He added that the “sophistication” of the two bombs “shows that, at least in my mind, that it was an al-Qaida Arabian Peninsula effort.”
He said the bombmaker is “a very dangerous individual, clearly somebody who has a fair amount of training and experience and we need to find him and we need to bring him to justice just as soon as we can.” Neither of the two women detained are believed to have sufficient training.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he said, “Clearly the sophistication of this device requires, I think, a number of people who were involved. We are concerned about individuals in Yemen who have very proficient bomb-making capabilities who are very dangerous.”
He noted that the Yemenis are questioning the two women. “We are hoping to get the results of those questions soon.”
Pressed on all the shows to say that all bombs have been found, he repeatedly replied, “We can’t presume that there are none other that are out there.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” he said officials “are still learning a lot about this plot.” Asked if there are any suspects in the United States, he said, “We can’t presume that there are not individuals in different locations throughout the world, including the U.S., who might have some association with this plot. So the FBI is working very closely with the Department of Homeland Security and intelligence agencies to run to ground any lead.”
He pledged to prevent AQAP from mounting another such attack. “We are working very closely with Yemeni officials. And we will destroy that organization as we will destroy the rest of al-Qaida.”
He said ongoing forensic analysis has only emphasized the seriousness of the plot. “They could have brought those airliners down,” he said. “We don’t know whether or not that is the extent of it, so we are going to continue to pursue all possible leads in the event that there are some other devices that are out there.”
He said authorities are now also taking a second look at the September crash of a UPS plane off Dubai to make sure it was not downed by a bomb. Officials there have said there was no bomb.
Brennan went out of his way to praise the cooperation from Saudi Arabia. “Once they got the information, they contacted us immediately,” he said. “And it was a race against the clock to find those packages, to neutralize them. And so we owe a debt of gratitude to the Saudis. I think their actions really saved lives.”
Brennan and the White House also drew some praise from a frequent critic. Rep. Peter King, R-NY., who stands to become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee if Republicans take over the House next week, said on CBS that “everything was done right and they continue to do it right and I give them full credit.”
He added, “I think the administration is handling it perfectly. They received actionable intelligence. They shared it with our allies. They did what had to be done.”
He said the incident demonstrates the growing threat from AQAP, which, he said, “is emerging as the major force now in the Islamic terrorist world, in some way supplanting bin Laden.”