Search for packages began after tip from Saudi ArabiaBy Tom Brune
October 31, 2010
WASHINGTON - It started with a tip from Saudi Arabia.
That information about a terror threat quickly made its way to U.S., British and United Arab Emirates officials.
And it set off a successful scramble early Friday to find two suspicious, and explosive, packages in transit from Yemen to Chicago synagogues.
The tip was just what the Obama administration needed to leap into action, showing it had learned lessons from its much-criticized performance in handling the foiled Christmas bomber last December.
The suspected plot was being watched by intelligence officials for days, unnamed officials told The Associated Press.
One official told AP that a Saudi Arabian intelligence operative picked up information related to Yemen and passed it on to the United States.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Friday he "knew enough" to brief Obama about the threat at 10:35 p.m. Thursday, before the first package was found.
At 5:15 a.m. Friday, Brennan talked to his British counterpart about the first suspicious package, found at East Midlands Airport in England. Four hours later, he was on the phone to Yemen.
And at 4:15 p.m., within 24 hours of his first briefing, Obama went to the White House briefing room to call the packages a "credible threat."
The White House won praise for doing a "much better job" from Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a critic of its handling of the foiled Christmas bomber.
"The president responded immediately, spoke out the first day, and had all of his facts right," King said. "All of the elements of the government . . . worked in close coordination and worked effectively."