FBI Investigating Yemen Terror Plot Leak

May 17, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 16, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The FBI said on Wednesday it is investigating an information leak in the foiled al-Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb on a U.S.-bound airplane, according to reports.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said the information that was disclosed to the media last week has risked the lives of intelligence sources and makes it harder to recruit them, according to a live video feed of the hearing.

“Leaks such as this have a huge impact on our ability to do our business, not just on a particular source and the threat to the particular source, but your ability to recruit sources is severely hampered,” Mueller said, adding that the FBI is investigating the incident “thoroughly.”

The foiled plot was traced back to al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen and was first revealed by The Associated Press and other media, but it was later revealed that the person in the middle of it was a double agent working with the CIA, U.K. intelligence, and Saudi intelligence officials.

Such leaks, Muller said, strain relationships between countries that cooperate with the United States over intelligence matters, which creates an “inhibition in the willingness of others to share information with us where they don’t think that information will remain secure.”

“So it also has some long-term effects, which is why it is so important to make certain that the persons who are responsible for the leak are brought to justice,” he said. Muller added that the FBI is discussing the leak with partners overseas to make sure the impact is minimized.

The bomb in the plot, according to reports, was an improvement over the underwear bomb that failed to explode over Detroit on Christmas Day of 2009. The new explosive device was also designed to be placed in the bomber’s underwear and had a more sophisticated detonator.

While responding to questions over safety measures implemented by airports to ensure that such explosive devices do not make it onto American airliners, Mueller said information was passed to the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to possibly beef up security measures.

It is unclear who constructed the bomb, but it is suspected that master bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri was the designer. He constructed the bomb that failed to go off in the Christmas Day incident.

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