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Flights Escorted By Fighter Jets, Suspicious Packages in Cargo Planes

Suspect packages found on cargo planes at two airports yesterday has now been followed up by the events on Emirates Flight 201:

The military escort is a “precaution.” Two F-16s are following the flight to JFK, and have been since the Emirates flight entered U.S. airspace.

Emirates flight 201 is being escorted into JFK airport by U.S. fighter jets, according to CNBC.

The flight is expected to land at 3:30 PM ET. It emanates from Dubai.

Apparently the two events are related. The President plans to make a statement at 4:15 ET. Already, Robert Gibbs released this:

Last night, intelligence and law enforcement agencies discovered potential suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the United States. Based on close cooperation among U.S. government agencies and with our foreign allies and partners, authorities were able to identify and examine two suspicious packages, one in East Midlands, United Kingdom, and one in Dubai. Both of these packages originated from Yemen. As a result of security precautions triggered by this threat, the additional measures were taken regarding the flights at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports.

The President was notified of a potential terrorist threat on Thursday night at 10:35, by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism. The President directed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security, to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to determine whether these threats are a part of any additional terrorist plotting. The President has received regular updates from his national security team since he was alerted to the threat.

And now we have this flight, also originating from Dubai. There’s some talk of “dry runs” – the packages were suspicious but not bombs – and there’s not a lot of information out there, although it’s clearly being called a terrorist threat. The Guardian writes “It is thought that synagogues in Chicago were among the targets,” but we don’t know if there were any targets from this specific action.

We’ll see what the President says at 4:15.

UPDATE: Obama speaking now, calls it “a credible terrorist threat against our country.” Says that the packages found in Dubai and an airfield in England were bound for synagogues in Chicago and that they did contain explosive material. Says that steps have been taken to screen cargo on passenger flights in addition to cargo flights. Says they’re “still pursuing all the facts” but that the packages originated in Yemen, and generally that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula still plans attacks on the US. Says they’ll continue to work with the Yemeni government (like allow child soldiers there?) to disrupt the terrorist threat. “The events of the past 24 hours underscores the need to remain vigilant about terrorism.”

Says that counter-terrorism professionals are taking this threat seriously. Wraps up and doesn’t mention Emirates Flight 201.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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