Obama: 'We will not waver in our resolve'

President Obama declared Friday that the United States "will not waver in our resolve" to snuff out terrorist attacks after two explosive-laden packages destined for Jewish sites in Chicago were discovered aboard cargo flights originating in Yemen, home of an al-Qaida affiliate hostile to the United States.

Confirming the apparent plot against his hometown -- Obama plans to visit Chicago this weekend -- the president said he was alerted Thursday night about a "credible terrorist attack."

Authorities believe there is a "strong possibility" that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula -- the terrorist group's affiliate in Yemen -- is behind the attack, a U.S. official involved in the investigation told National Journal. The group was responsible for the attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner last Christmas. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Obama went out of his way to note that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen. He promised to "spare no effort" to investigate the plot involving two packages found in Britain and Dubai. At least one of the packages included ink toner with white powder and wires coming out of it.

"The American people should be confident that we will not waver in our resolve to defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates and to root out violent extremism in all its forms," the president said in the White House briefing room.

Elaborating on the president's remarks, the U.S. official said the British package was directed to a Chicago synagogue while the Dubai package was addressed to a Jewish community center in the same city.

The news rattled U.S. leaders and led to at least one false report -- New York police, responding to a suspicious-package report aboard a cargo truck, found an envelope filled with bank receipts. Still, House Homeland Security ranking member Peter King, R-N.Y., said the evidence in Britain and Dubai suggests there was a coordinated plan against the U.S.

"Obviously," he told MSNBC, "something real is happening here."

On high alert, U.S. military F-15 fighter jets escorted a passenger plane originating from Yemen into John F. Kennedy International Airport near New York City.

Security officials had been monitoring the the suspected plot for days, according to a senior law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Obama was first briefed on the security threat last night and is receiving regular updates. Shortly after Obama's statement, the White House said the devices had been disabled.

"Based on close cooperation among U.S. government agencies and with our foreign allies and partners, authorities were able to identify and examine two suspicious packages, one in London and one in Dubai. Both of these packages originated from Yemen," according to a White House statement.

With just days before Tuesday's midterm elections, the news captured the attention of a public that had been more focused on jobs and the economy, not national security.

The suspicious packages were said to be carried on two commercial cargo flights - one from the United Parcel Service and the other FedEx. The U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity told National Journal that the suspicious package found on the plane in the East Midlands in the United Kingdom could have been a dry run for an attack.

The package was found during routine screening of cargo in the United Kingdom, prompting authorities to scour three planes and a truck in the United States on Friday. Searches were conducted in Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., and New York City, but no explosives were found.

The security concerns quickly spread to other cargo shipping companies. FedEx, for example, announced that it has embargoed all shipments from Yemen.

"We've notified the intended recipients of the packages, but we are not making public who those intended recipients are," said Special Agent Ross Rice, of the Chicago FBI.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago said it has alerted synagogues not to open packages that appear suspicious or which come from Yemen or from any organization that has the name "Yemen" in it.

"Needless to say, we all hope that nothing will come of this. But given the realities of today's world and the information that has been made available, it is important that these security precautions be taken by all area synagogues," said Michael Kotzin, Jewish Federation executive vice president.

The Yemen Embassy in the United States issued a statement saying that no UPS cargo planes land or take off from Yemeni airports and there are no direct flights from Yemen either to the United States or the United Kingdom.

"The Yemeni government launched a full scale investigation," the embassy said. "We are working closely with international partners - including the U.S. - on the incident."

Click here to get a glimpse of National Journal's new website.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.