The undercover agent who helped thwart the latest underwear bomb plot was a British citizen, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston has learned.
“The undercover operation was being directed by British intelligence with help from other international intelligence agencies,” Dina tells us. “The British had put some pressure on the Obama administration not to reveal their role in the secret mission.”
Before today’s revelation, Dina says, it was assumed the agent had a connection to Saudi Arabia, because “there are so many tribal connections and various language connections and familial connections between Saudis and Yemenis by the border.”
But it turns out it was a British citizen who infiltrated al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and eventually convinced them to hand him their latest-generation bomb by posing as a suicide bomber.
The agent then handed that bomb — a new, nonmetallic device designed to evade airport security — to American intelligence. The device is now in the hands of the FBI in Quantico, Va.
The British, the Saudis and the Americans work very closely in counterterrorism operations, Dina tells us. The Americans were a step removed and knew what was going on “but at the same time this wasn’t a CIA operation,” Dina says.