Rep. King: Al Qaeda plot showed ‘new level of sophistication’

“This seems to be a new level of sophistication by al Qaeda, probably al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” King said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” "It’s again an indication that the war, despite what the president said, is not going to end in Afghanistan. The war on al Qaeda will go on for many years.”

The National Security Council on Monday said the Central Intelligence Agency had broken up a plot to blow up a commercial jet headed for the United States.

An al Qaeda suicide bomber planned to detonate explosives concealed in his underwear aboard a flight, in an attack intended to mark the first anniversary of former leader Osama bin Laden’s death.

King said the investigation into the planed attack was ongoing.

“The device is being tested by the FBI,” he said, adding that intelligence officials were examining “whether or not our current level of detection is enough to be able to find this type of device.”

King would not confirm further details about the foiled attack, saying “I can just tell you that the person who actually had the bomb is no longer a threat.”

Pressed on the status of the suspect, King would not acknowledge if that individual was dead or in custody. “I can only tell you that the White House person I spoke to said the terminology they are using is ‘he is no longer a concern.’ ”

Appearing on the same program, former Homeland Security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend said “a senior administration official with direct knowledge assured me and others that this device never made it to an airport much less never made it to a plane.”

Townsend, who served in the George W. Bush administration, said that one had to “presume that this thing began in Yemen. U.S. forces were working with foreign partners — it may have been the Saudis and we’ve heard information like that. The Saudis have the best insight into al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have been a very close ally.” 

“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.

While King would not confirm those details officially, he acknowledged that “everything your friend Townsend said, as usual, makes a tremendous amount of sense. I’m just not in a position to be able to say.”

“If you listen to Fran Townsend, you get a pretty good idea of what happened.”

King also said a U.S. drone strike against an al Qaeda training camp in southern Yemen over the weekend was connected to the airplane bombing plot.

“I was told by the White House that they are connected, they are part of the same operation and that’s why I said this operation is ongoing,” said King.

The New York lawmaker said the bombing attempt was further proof that the country should remain vigilant against al Qaeda.

“We are safer than we were on 9/11. However, al Qaeda and its affiliates have metastasized … they are constantly adapting, they are constantly trying to catch up. Whenever it is we have them boxed in they find a new method,” he said. 

“They have very able scientists, doctors working for them. They are very sophisticated people, which is why it’s so wrong when people in the national arena somehow say the war on terrorism is over or al Qaeda is defeated,” King added.