Photograph by AFP/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: The CIA double agent who recently stopped al-Qaida's plot to bring down a U.S.-bound plane with an upgrade to the "underwear bomb" was reportedly the one tapped by the Yemeni branch to carry out the suicide attack.
The Associated Press, citing unnamed officials, are among the media outlets going with that updated narrative. The double agent status of the intended suicide bomber was implied, but not confirmed, by details of the intelligence coup released early Tuesday.
CBS News provides a few more details of the alleged double agent's infiltration of the third failed bomb plot from the terrorist organization in three years. Reportedly, the agent, already a source working deep inside al-Qaida, volunteered to be the suicide bomber after intelligence officials heard of the plot. He delivered both the bomb and information on the whereabouts of Fahd al Quso to U.S. officials. Al Quso, a senior al Qaida member in Yemen, was killed in a drone strike last weekend.
Tuesday, May 8: The al-Qaida plot to bring down a U.S.-bound plane with an upgrade to the infamous "underwear bomb" was foiled by an insider in Yemen who worked for the CIA and other intelligence organizations, ABC News reported Tuesday morning. The insider is now out of Yemen.
The news of the plot, which was to be executed on or around the anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death, was held for several days by the Associated Press, who first reported the story Monday. But authorities, including White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, are now sharing the basics of how the plot was stopped.
It turns out that the CIA's insider was able to obtain and bring the bomb with him to Saudi Arabia, according to Brennan. However, the counterterrorism chief wouldn't tell Good Morning America whether the insider had been tapped by al-Qaida to carry out the plot himself, and shared few other details on the insider, citing operational security.
Monday, May 7: The Associated Press with the scoop from unnamed U.S. officials: The CIA foiled a plot by an al-Qaida affiliate to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner on or around last week's anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death.
The weapon of choice: an upgrade of the underwear bomb that failed to bring down a plane over Detroit back on Christmas 2009. The device appears to have been metal-free, raising concerns that it could have passed through airport security undetected.
News of the plot is particularly noteworthy because the Obama administration had reassured the public at the time that they had no indication of any specific, credible threats tied to the anniversary. That suggests that preventing the attack either took some last-minute heroics or that the White House wasn't being completely upfront with what it knew and when.
The AP with more on the plot and the upgraded underwear bomb:
This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger’s underwear, but this time al-Qaida developed a more refined detonation system, U.S. officials said. ... The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought his plane tickets when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It's not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.
The AP learned of the thwarted plot last week but says it agreed to government requests not to publish what it knew immediately because the sensitive intelligence operation was still under way. "Once officials said those concerns were allayed, the AP decided to disclose the plot Monday despite requests from the Obama administration to wait for an official announcement Tuesday," according to the report.
You can read the AP report here.