The seizure of an explosive device that al-Qaida intended to carry aboard an airliner bound for the United States appears to be the result of a covert CIA operation in Yemen and good cooperation from Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies. It is also a reminder that even as the United States reduces the number of troops in Afghanistan and marks the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, terrorism remains a serious threat and the nation cannot let down its guard.
The explosive device is described as an improved version of the so-called underwear bomb, which failed to explode on Christmas in 2009 in an airplane over Detroit. Counterterrorism experts said Tuesday that it was not yet clear whether the new device could have been detected by new body scanners used in many airports, including Tampa International. As the sophistication of the terrorists advances, so will the need to improve the technology used to detect the latest explosive devices.
The best outcome, of course, is to thwart potential attacks before they get to airport security. Published reports Tuesday suggested this operation was discovered last month and that a suicide bomber in Yemen had not yet picked a particular target or airliner before the CIA obtained the explosive device. The most effective defense against terrorism continues to be cooperation between the United States and its allies in sharing intelligence, coordinating operations and rooting out potential threats before they can advance.