Terror Alert: Al Qaeda targeting US airliners/Norwegian operative sought
(CBS News) There are reports of concern over another terror plot involving Al Qaeda targeting a U.S. airliner.
Sources say that the bomber that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has recruited is a Norwegian convert to Islam, who is believed to be in his thirties, with no criminal record.
The Times of London reports that the airliner attack is believed to be timed to the upcoming Olympics, though a U.K. intelligence official told the paper that the plot would be pursued regardless of the London Games: "The only thing that connects this to the Olympics is the fact that they are about to happen," the official said.
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, said that despite foiled bomb plots targeting airliners, al Qaeda has not lost its fascination with commercial aviation - and that AQAP (al Qaeda's branch based in Yemen) has been specifically assigned to find a way to blow up a U.S. plane.
"They were the architects of the first underwear bomb, they were the architects of the ingenious printer bomb which was interdicted before it could go off," Miller said. "And I think what we're seeing once again is they've tried to put a bomb on a person and get them on a plane. Whether it has anything to do with the Olympics or the Fourth of July - one of the chosen target holidays by bin Laden - is something we don't yet know.
"Another thing that AQAP and Yemen developed was a surgically implanted bomb," Miller added. "Now, we've seen the design for that, but we haven't seen it used in a commercial airline threat yet."
On "CBS This Morning" Miller said using a Norwegian convert matches al Qaeda's efforts to find operatives who don't fit the profile of terrorists for whom Western intelligence is searching, who are radicalized via the Internet.
Miller said intelligence agencies must now find an individual who fits the profile of an al Qaeda convert: "Someone 18 to 35, someone who is from Norway, someone who has traveled to places that are jump-off spots to go to Yemen. Now, you've got maybe tens of thousands of people, or thousands. But you want to crunch that down to who has connection somewhere else in the database, and focus on those people."
Miller said there are two ways to investigate the pool of possible suspects: "One, the traditional way, which is you have intelligence officers overseas who run intelligence agents in the field and you say, 'Now bang against your sources and see if we can come up with a real name on this guy and where he is.'
"And the less traditional and perhaps the more interesting way is the data crunching piece where you take what you do know about him and then what you know about the geography, and then you use supercomputers to crunch through those records and say 'How do we narrow this pool down and then how do we look for further connections?'