President Obama was notified last night that two suspicious packages from Yemen — one near London and one in Dubai, both on flights bound for the U.S. — were examined, triggering heightened security measures that lead to UPS planes being isolated in Newark, N.J. and Philadelphia.
The statement from the White House is the clearest picture yet of what happened today, when at least two planes were isolated and checked for bombs after a suspicious package was found on a Chicago-bound flight in London. The package, an altered ink cartridge with protruding wires and covered in white powder, was not found to contain explosives.
One UPS plane in Newark and two in Philadelphia were isolated and searched. The Newark plane was given the all-clear, and the Philly Inquirer reports that no explosives have yet been found in Philadelphia, although the planes are still being searched. UPS trucks in Queens and Brooklyn, N.Y., were also examined and then given the all-clear.
CNN is reporting that intelligence officials were also alerted about a threat to synagogues in Chicago, although the connection between that threat and the suspicious devices is unclear.
“We were notified about this earlier this morning,” a spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Linda Hasse, told CNN. “We are taking appropriate precautions and we are advising local synagogues to do the same.”
In statements, the TSA and DHS have noted they are monitoring the situation and implementing increased security precautions.
CNN is also reporting now that U.S. officials believe that the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was involved in the plot.
Late update: The FBI tells TPM that the agency has warned all religious institutions in Chicago — including churches, synagogues and mosques — to be on the lookout for packages, especially those from overseas. A spokesman said two of the suspicious packages found were addressed to religious institutions, but did not provide specifics.
Late late update: President Obama will make a statement about the plot at 4:15 ET.
Late late late update: U.S. fighter jets escorted a United Arab Emirates passenger plane to JFK Airport, reportedly because there is cargo from Yemen onboard. As of 3:45 ET, the plane has landed at JFK and will be searched.