Could American Airport Security Detect Al Qaida's New Non-Metallic Bomb?

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A TSA officer watches as a passenger goes through an airport metal detector. (AP)
A TSA officer watches as a passenger goes through an airport metal detector. (AP)


Over the past three years, al-Qaida bomb makers in Yemen have developed three fiendishly clever devices in hopes of attacking airplanes in the skies above the United States.

First, there was the underwear bomb that fizzled over Detroit on Christmas 2009. Next, terrorists hid bombs inside printer cartridges and got them on board cargo planes in 2010, only to watch authorities find and defuse them in the nick of time. Then last month, officials say, al-Qaida completed a sophisticated new, nonmetallic underwear bomb - and unwittingly handed it over to the CIA.

The would-be suicide bomber, the man al-Qaida entrusted with its latest device, actually was a double agent working with the CIA and Saudi intelligence agencies, officials said Tuesday. Instead of sneaking it onto a plane in his underwear, he delivered it to the U.S. government and handed al-Qaida its latest setback.

U.S. security measures could detect a non-metallic bomb like the one in the latest plot by al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate, but key technology such as body scanners is not deployed at all U.S. airports, Obama administration officials said Tuesday.


  • Scott Shane, reporter for the New York Times

This segment aired on May 9, 2012.


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