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Undercover Saudi Agent Reportedly Foiled al-Qaida Airliner Bomb Plot

May 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, more details and a major twist in the foiled al-Qaida terrorism plot.

Front pages around the country carried the news today that the would-be terrorist intending to blow up a U.S. bound airliner was in fact a double agent from Saudi Arabia. He was supposed to slip past airport security wearing a sophisticated bomb in his underwear.

Instead, the agent had infiltrated al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, and delivered the improvised explosive device, or IED, into Saudi and U.S. hands.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI director: We have seen over the last several days, particularly with regard to the IED that was recently recovered, that terrorism should be — is and should be and continues to be our number one priority and the number one priority of a number of our intelligence agencies.

JEFFREY BROWN: At a House hearing this morning, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the foiled plot underscores the importance of wide-ranging electronic surveillance powers, due to expire at the end of this year.

ROBERT MUELLER: The access to information that enables us to identify persons both within the United States, but also without the United States that would hurt us, but also our intelligence agencies to operate overseas to pull in this information has been essential and remains essential.

JEFFREY BROWN: House members refrained from pressing Mueller for more details on the double agent. Since the story became public, some in and out of government have criticized the leaking of the information.