NEW YORK (CBS 2) — We could have been targets all over again.
The mail bomb intercepted in England was timed to explode over New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reports a new attack was closer than we ever imagined.
After inspecting timers on the sophisticated mail bombs, forensics experts in Britain did the math and believe one of them was set to explode over the East Coast at 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 29.
“If the device had not been removed from the aircraft, the activation could have occurred over the eastern seaboard of the U.S.,” a spokesman for Scotland Yard said.
That’s a target zone that includes the New York City.
“This is their target. This is their goal. This is what they want to do,” security expert Robert Strang told Carlin.
The device was one of two linked to Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, called the top bomb maker for the branch of al Qaeda based in Yemen.
The explosives were hidden in computer printer cartridges, and included syringes and cell phone components.
The two packages were addressed to synagogues in Chicago. After a tip from a Saudi intelligence source, one package was intercepted in Dubai, the other at East Midlands Airport in Britain.
The new developments show the plot was unraveled with almost no time to spare, and sparked an intense search for more cargo bombs. Newark Liberty International Airport was evacuated, a jet was escorted by fighter jets at John F. Kennedy Airport, and the DHL shipping terminal at Kennedy was emptied. All three searches turned out to be false alarms.
“We do the best we can with the tools we have. Can we get better? Absolutely,” Strang said.
Carlin also learned the wiring inside those bombs was very difficult to detect — even with X-ray machines. Cargo companies are now double-checking all packages, especially the ones with no return addresses or excessive postage.