Months-Long Investigation Results in U.K. Arrests
NPR's Justice Department reporter has been following this story all this morning and is in the studio with us. So Ari let's recap what we've learned throughout this morning and we're also keeping an eye on the president.
ARI SHAPIRO reporting:
Yes. Well, this morning started with announcements from British officials that last night police had brought to a head an investigation that was months in the making. They arrested 21 people and they believe that includes all of the masterminds of this plot.
But they said it's just the first stage in the investigation. There could be many more people out there. This plot has been described as international, well-organized, well-financed, wide-spread. So it's likely that this 21-person arrest that we've heard about is really only the beginning.
MONTAGNE: Well, presumably the British officials are intending to be reassuring in a sense when they say that they have arrested the ringleaders or the masterminds. Have they said at all who they might be?
SHAPIRO: They haven't said much about these people. They've said that they are homegrown, but they won't go into much more detail beyond that. They are not going so far as to say that these folks are members of al-Qaida, but they say that this plot they're describing as many of the hallmarks of an al-Qaida plot: timed explosives involving aircraft.
And this - as we've heard earlier in the program - plays off of earlier bombing plots that al-Qaida attempted involving liquid explosives combined on an airplane. So although nobody has said that this is al-Qaida, it looks very likely and people are suggesting that that may, in fact, turn out to be the case.
MONTAGNE: Well, in talking about having jailed the ringleaders of this alleged plot, does that suggest that there are none here in the United States?
SHAPIRO: So far that does seem to be the case. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff spoke earlier this morning. He said there is no immediate threat to the U.S. He encouraged people to keep their travel plans - although they'll need to leave extra time at the airport and make special accommodations - but he said there have been no arrests in the United States. He did not suggest that there would be any arrests in the United States.
President Bush, who is making a statement now, has said that these arrests are a stark reminder that the nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation. That was his quote. And so he certainly seems to be focusing on the threat that these people posed and continue to pose to the U.S.
MONTAGNE: Now earlier this morning Michael Chertoff of Homeland Security called this plot advanced. What does that mean?
SHAPIRO: Well, there was a lot of planning that apparently went into it. The number of people involved, the sophistication that are involved, all seem to indicate that this was a very organized attempt at what could have been a massive terrorist attack. He said it seems larger and more well-organized than anything we've seen recently.
And he contrasted it with some of the sort of more ragtag makeshift attempts at terrorist attacks that we've seen in some other countries recently. This appears to be much more thoroughly planned, plotted and nearly executed from what we're led to understand.
MONTAGNE: Michael Chertoff also announced this morning, that the terror alert level was being raised for flights - from Britain to the United States - to red, as we said earlier, also to orange for other flights. What will this mean for travelers in the coming days?
SHAPIRO: Well, there're aspects of raising the terror threat level to red that are visible aspects that are not visible. For travelers it means get to the airport early, check to make sure your flights are still scheduled as planned and be ready to be flexible if there are changes that have to be made.
MONTAGNE: Ari thank you very much for joining us.
SHAPIRO: You're welcome.