President Obama's homeland security adviser, John Brennan, spoke to reporters in the White House briefing room about the credible terrorist threat uncovered by U.S. authorities with help from foreign partners.
The presidential homeland security adviser says the two packages identified on aircraft bound for the United States, and addressed to synagogues in Chicago, contained explosive materials, and appeared intended to carry out what Brennan called some sort of attack that could have caused harm, though he would not say on what level.
Addressing the media after President Obama made his statement on the threat, Brennan said there is an active and ongoing investigation underway, with partners in the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, adding that for now only two packages had been identified.
Brennan said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has demonstrated that it continues to focus on the aviation sector to carry out attacks, and the aviation industry has taken steps over the years in response.
He responded this way when asked how al-Qaida has adapted to the sharply enhanced security and intelligence efforts aimed against it. "The Al-Qaida organization has tried to adapt to all of the obstacles and hurdles we put in front of it. That is why we have to remain very agile, we have to make sure that we stay one step ahead of them. But clearly they are looking to identify vulnerabilities in our system and take advantage of those vulnerabilities," he said.
In his statement to the media, President Obama said authorities will spare no effort in investigating the origins of the packages, which Brennan said had been disabled, and their connection to any additional terrorist plotting.
The president spoke about U.S. counter-terrorism cooperation with the Yemeni government. "We will continue to strengthen our cooperation with the Yemeni government, to disrupt plotting by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and to destroy this al-Qaida affiliate. We will also continue our efforts to strengthen a more stable, secure and prosperous Yemen so that terrorist groups do not have the time and space they need to plan attacks from within its borders," he said.
Asked whether authorities believe that the radical Yemeni-US cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, may have been involved, Brennan said all individuals associated with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula are being looked at.
In a statement issued late Friday, Brennan said the U.S. is grateful to Saudi Arabia for its assistance in developing information that he said helped to underscore the imminence of the threat emanating from Yemen.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said there would be no change in President Obama's travels on the political campaign trail in support of Democrats before the November 2 congressional mid-term elections. "Our counter-terrorism professionals are on the job and the president is not going to change his schedule and there is no cause for Americans to change their schedule," he said.
After a political appearance in Virginia Friday, President Obama travels to Philadelphia on Saturday, and later to Chicago to support Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.