Reports: Alleged al Qaeda bomber was US double agent

A would-be bomber tasked by al Qaeda to blow up a commercial airliner bound for the United States was actually a double agent working for American and Saudi Arabian intelligence, according to recent reports.

On Monday, reports surfaced that CIA agents had captured a suicide bomber tied to al Qaeda's Yemen cell before he could board a U.S-bound commercial flight. 

But recent reports by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times claim the bomber was an informant recruited by Saudi intelligence and working with CIA to infiltrate the Yemen terror cell, known as al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP). 

A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the accuracy of these recent reports. 

The double agent, posing as an Islamic fundamentalist willing to fight for AQAP, was reportedly given a new type of explosive that was undetectable by current forms of airline security. 

He was then ordered to board any plane destined for the United States from Yemen, according to the L.A. Times

Instead, the informant passed the deadly ordnance to American and Saudi intelligence. He has since been taken out of Yemen and is being debriefed in Saudi Arabia. 

Aside from thwarting the airline bombing plot, the informant also provided information for a CIA-led drone strike on Sunday that killed the al Qaeda operative suspected of blowing up the USS Cole when the ship was in Yemen in back in 2000, according to the N.Y. Times

Before news on the involvement of a U.S. and Saudi-run double agent inside AQAP broke late Tuesday, former Homeland Security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend insinuated the foiled plot could have been the result of an inside job. 

“Presumably, the Saudis, working with the U.S., disrupted this plot, perhaps inside Yemen, seized the device, turned that over to the U.S. and someone, the Yemenis or the Saudis, have custody of this guy,” she said Tuesday morning on CNN’s “Starting Point.”

Initial reports Monday claimed CIA agents uncovered the bombing plot, which was intended to coincide with the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. 

Deputy National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said on Monday that President Obama  “has received regular updates and briefings as needed from his national security team” on the ongoing investigation, she said. 

“The president was assured that the device did not pose a threat to the public [and] he directed the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take whatever steps necessary to guard against this type of attack,” Hayden added.