TSA Chief Explains Intel on Thermos Threat and Extra Screening

ABC News' Jason Ryan reports: TSA Administrator John Pistole today disclosed that intelligence information was obtained on Dec. 23, 2010 that Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was seeking to make a bomb using insulated drinking mugs and thermoses, leading to the extra check in security lines over the holiday.

Pistole also advised the public to expect additional screening if they travel with the thermal mugs and thermoses.

“In the near future if you want to take your thermos with you just be aware that your going to be subject to more physical screening," the TSA head said today.

At an event sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security, Pistole provided details about a security bulletin issued by TSA on Christmas eve that warned TSA officers to be alert about insulated drinking cups and thermoses and discussed how quickly DHS acted on an intelligence tip.

“This plot was that they would use TATP [triacetone triperoxide] around the cylinder of a thermos; put it on either a passenger or a cargo plane and how ever the initiation or the detonator, they didn’t describe," he said. "So that’s general intelligence, what do we do about it? We put out an alert just making sure that all of our Transportation Security Officers our TSOs are alert to that and do additional physical screening in addition to the x-rays.”

Pistole also said intelligence indicated that the devices were being devised by AQAP’s master bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri a.k.a: Abu Saleh who was behind last fall’s cargo bomb plot.

In that attempted plot al-Asiri placed explosives in toner cartridges. Al-Asiri is best know for devising the bomb that his younger brother, Abdullah, used in an attempt to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the deputy Saudi interior minister in August 2009. During the attempted assassination attempt, Abdullah al-Asiri had placed the bomb inside his rectum to avoid detection as he got close to the Saudi Prince.

Officials believe that months after the failed assassination attempt on the Saudi prince, al-Asiri devised the underwear bomb used by Abdulmutallab in the 2009 Christmas day bombing attempt. The new details about Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula devising a bomb in the thermal cups shows the group remains committed to find new ways of attacking the United States.

The bulletin, issued on one of the busiest travel days, followed controversy about TSA conducting more extensive pat-downs of air passengers that did not want to go through new advanced imagining technology at certain airports.

When the Dec. 24 bulletin was issued, TSA said in a statement :“The possible tactics terrorists might use include the concealment of explosives inside insulated beverage containers, so in the coming days, passengers flying within and to the U.S. may notice additional security measures related to insulated beverage containers."

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