Obama: Intel agents were on top of bomb plot ‘the entire time’

President Obama said it shouldn't "be any surprise" that al Qaeda is continuing efforts to attack the United States, but said of the recently foiled plot to bomb an America-bound airliner that he was "on top of this the entire time."

“I was briefed on this in April,” Obama told ABC News in an interview aired Thursday. “At no point were American lives in danger or American aircraft in danger.”

The president said that the American intelligence community is now "learning lessons" from the intercepted explosive device, now being studied at an FBI laboratory in Quanitco, Va. The device allegedly used nonmetallic explosive elements that were unlikely to have been caught during a routine screening before boarding an aircraft.

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American officials captured the device after a double agent won his way into the terrorist group's inner circle.  

But the president said that he wasn't surprised that al Qaeda was continuing to target the United States one year after the death of leader Osama bin Laden.

“I’ve been very clear that, even with the death of bin Laden, even as weakened as al Qaeda is, if you have a bunch of extremists who are adamant about trying to kill civilians, then we are going to have to maintain constant vigilance and create a whole series of layers of protection and barriers,” Obama said.

“And, you know, fortunately, what we’ve seen is constant improvement on the part of our law enforcement, our military [and] our intelligence officers that allows us to be able to prevent the kind of attack that we just saw.”

The president went on to say that the country's intelligence and homeland security teams must "keep on working as hard as we can to make sure that folks don’t get hurt.”