A recently disrupted bombing plot was one of the most dangerous to the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Attorney General Eric Holder said yesterday.
"I can say the investigation is pretty far along. We have a pretty good handle who was involved and what was intended," Holder said at a news briefing in Washington, D.C.
"This alleged plot was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country since September 11, 2001."
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) agreed with Holder's assessment of the suspected plot, saying Tuesday: "This had the potential to be devastating."
Holder gave no indication when there might be more arrests in the Najibullah Zazi case.
Intelligence sources told The Associated Press that Zazi had ties to senior al-Qaida officials during his travel to Pakistan late last year and that a CIA source first tipped off U.S. investigators about him.
U.S. intelligence organizations first became aware of Zazi in late August, a senior administration official said. The intelligence and administration officials declined to offer more details on the operative and spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We're not commenting on that," said Wendy Aiello, a spokeswoman for Arthur Folsom, Zazi's lawyer in Denver.
Federal prosecutors have said the Zazi case was international in scope. They plan to use the fruits of special foreign intelligence surveillance intercepts at his trial. They say Zazi took a bomb-making course at an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan, had notes on how to make explosives on his laptop computer, and acquired materials similar to those used in bomb attacks in London in 2005, buying acetone and hydrogen peroxide at beauty supply stores.
Holder said the plot, if it had been successful, could have killed "scores" of Americans, based on the chemicals involved, the history of similar plots and the number of people suspected of being involved.
President Barack Obama met officials at the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia Tuesday and congratulated them for their work to thwart the alleged plot.
"You know that we're facing determined adversaries who are resourceful, who are resilient and who are still plotting," he said.
The FBI has had under surveillance other suspects it believes may have helped Zazi acquire the chemicals and consulted with him on how to make explosives.
In court papers, prosecutors said Zazi and at least three others bought hydrogen peroxide, acetone and other chemicals that could be used to make explosives.
Zazi also apparently cooked up an explosive mixture in a Colorado motel room and at one point frantically tried to contact others to determine the right chemical mixture, prosecutors said.
Zazi is being held without bail after his indictment by a Brooklyn federal grand jury on charges he plotted with others to make bombs to kill Americans