WH adviser: Bomb plot highlights AQAP as "cancer"

John Brennan
John Brennan

(CBS News) One day after the announcement of a foiled plot to blow up an airliner bound for the U.S., a White House counterterrorism adviser called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group suspected of being behind the plan, the "most operationally active" al Qaeda cell in the world and "a cancer" in Yemen.

On "CBS This Morning" Tuesday, John Brennan called AQAP a "serious problem for the Yemenis. We're going to work with them to remove this cancer from Yemen."

AQAP previously tried to use a similar bomb, hidden in the underwear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas day in 2009. FBI experts are now studying the latest device to see just what modifications had been made to the original design.

CIA thwarts new al Qaeda underwear bomb plot
FBI analyzing improved underwear bomb

CIA agents in Yemen broke up the plot and the government says no planes were ever in danger.

Brennan wouldn't specifically address whether the would-be bomber, who hasn't been identified, was in U.S. or international custody, but he said the U.S. was confident that the device and those behind the plot are "no longer a threat to the American people."

(Below watch John Miller's report: FBI investigating failed al Qaeda bomb plot.)

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller reports the plot is believed to be the handiwork of Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, AQAP's master bomb maker.

"In some measure, this all boils down to one person - Asiri the bomb maker," Miller said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." "Making bombs is not that difficult - the technical part of it. It's the creative touch he adds, how they're concealed, how they're conceived. The printer bomb for instance was considered by bomb technicians around the world to be a brilliant stroke. So it boils down to one person, but one very dangerous person."

AQAP operates out of remote parts in Yemen. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda designated APAQ to take the lead in launching an attack against the United States and Great Britain, targeting planes. The foiled plot announced is the third plot targeting U.S. soil.

"AQAP has been clearly determined to continue to pursue these attempted attacks," Brennan said, "and we're going to do everything in our power to stop them long before they get to an aircraft."

Brennan said the effort to foil the plot was the result of close cooperation with overseas partners, including the Yemeni government.