By Justin Sink - 09/23/14 06:20 PM EDT
Intelligence suggesting the band of al Qaeda veterans targeted in U.S. airstrikes Monday night were plotting attacks on Western airplanes led the U.S. to toughen security screening over the summer, Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderLawyer claims death threats after anti-Black Lives Matter lawsuit Adviser: Obama can’t ‘erase decades’ of racism Airbnb enlists civil rights leaders in discrimination fight MORE said Tuesday.
“I can say that the enhanced security measures that we took [in] the aviation sector some months ago [were] based on concerns we had about what the Khorasan Group was planning to do," Holder said in an interview with Yahoo News.
“We hit them last night out of a concern that they were getting close to an execution date of some of the plans that we have seen,” he said. “And the hitting that we did last night, I think, will probably continue until we are at a stage where we think we have degraded their ability to get at our allies or to the homeland.”
A senior administration official said Tuesday that the U.S. was considering airstrikes against the group's headquarters in Syria even had the military not moved ahead with simultaneous bombing of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
According to one Obama aide, the decision to strike ISIS targets near Raqqa “gave opportunity” for the U.S. to also bomb a Khorasan Group site west of Aleppo — an “action we were contemplating separate and apart from” ISIS.
“The president has been crystal clear we take action against terrorists who pose a threat to the United States,” the official said, adding that was true “irrespective of borders.”
The official said intelligence officials believed the Khorasan Group was “nearing the execution phase” of an “imminent” attack in Europe or the U.S. homeland. That plot included efforts to “actively recruit Westerners” who would “go back and blend in to their home countries,” officials said.