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Nigerian Man Tries to Blow Up Plane Heading for Detroit; Increased Security at Airports; London Begins Investigation of Suspect

Aired December 26, 2009 - 08:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you all. Again, on this day after Christmas when so many of you are going to be traveling either today or this weekend or have a loved one that's going to be traveling. We have word that on Christmas day someone trying to blow up a plane that was landing in Detroit.

This is a major story with major implications, with security of this country and also for a lot of you travelers. So stick with us. We're going to run you through it all. Now, here's what we know about the incident in Detroit and this is why air travelers could face some even tougher security scrutiny this weekend.

Now, the man is 23-year-old, he's a Nigerian man. His name is Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. Now this is the first picture we're seeing, a CNN exclusive here. But that's him in the white T shirt being taken into custody by security officials aboard that plane. That plane had taken off from Amsterdam yesterday and was then going to land in Detroit yesterday around noontime.

Now he attempted, according to police, to set off an explosive device aboard that Northwest airlines flight. Now, he was not successful. He was successful in setting off what some described as a pop. There was a fire. He did sustain some injuries, some burns, mainly on his legs. But as far as everyone else on the plane, they were OK. The suspect, he started this trip in Lagos, Nigeria. He went from there to Amsterdam and then the plane went from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Now counter terrorism police in London are now investigating a home there in connection with this story, searching houses in the central part of the city. We're getting more details about that. This is a fast-moving story. This morning the details continue to come in. What you need to know as well from homeland security is that you could be facing tighter security at the airports today. We have not raised the terror alert level according to our color-coded terror system we've seen since 9/11.

We are still at orange as far as the airports go. That does not mean you're not going to face tighter security. You're going to see more police around, a higher presence there. You're going to see more police dogs, the bomb sniffing dogs, see more of that and have longer lines folks. You need to make some adjustments. Already travel headache this weekend, but because of this incident now, it's going to be get even trickier. BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We have already seen the pictures of the bomb-sniffing dogs and the longer line in Detroit. Detroit metropolitan Wayne County airport and that is where we find our own Deb Feyerick. She's in Detroit with a little bit more information, not only as far as heightened security go, Deb, inside that airport, but I want to first just begin with the investigation of this attempted terror attack.

Bring us up to speed this morning. What do we know investigation wise?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, we can tell you that a senior U.S. official does tell CNN that in fact, the man, the 23-year-old Nigerian gentleman Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, he is speaking to FBI officials. He is speaking to FBI agents. So they're questioning him now. He was being treated for injuries sustained while trying to detonate that device. We're also told that the FBI has alerted airports as to the kinds of materials that he used.

Now, that may be why when we were inside the airport earlier, we heard an announcement saying that due to an heightened security alert, passengers play be restricted as to what they can bring on board the planes. We do not know what the material is, but the airports are aware. We are seeing very, very long lines as people are being questioned a little bit more thoroughly, as bomb-sniffing dogs are making their way amongst the passengers just to make sure they're not picking up.

But, again, a lot of questions. Was this man acting as a lone wolf, as a sort of a lone jihadi or did he receive some sort of al Qaeda training? I spoke to one terror expert who says what's interesting, also, is the timing of this particular incident, almost eight years to the month of Richard Reid, an American who also tried to light some sort of explosive onboard a plane.

Now, experts are telling me that there was a measure of sophistication, this man able to bring these materials from Lagos, Nigeria, on to a plane in Amsterdam. Many plots, many previous plots, the men have attempted to detonate the planes over the ocean. Why did he wait until he was just miles from the Detroit airport in order to try to do this? Also, because he was able to bring it on, why did it do more damage?

That's another element that FBI agents are looking at. It appears that whether he was able to detonate it or whether it just really sort of burned, that is a very big distinction. That is one that clearly FBI agents are looking into. All of this right now under investigation. There are some reports that this man possibly may even be charged today. But again, that's just a report right now -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: And, Deb, another point I think you made earlier, I know you've covered terrorism for quite a number of years. You said, look, this guy is also speaking to the FBI, he's talking a lot. He's not keeping his mouth shut, which is just another interesting twist in the story. Before I let you go, I'm sure maybe you had a moment to just peak your head inside the airport. We've seen the long lines. Just do me a favor. Just set the tone inside the airport and talk me through some of the additional procedures some of these passengers are having to go through.

FEYERICK: Well, it's interesting. We can see the exterior security that they're going through. Again, those long lines because they are being asked a lot of questions, the bomb-sniffing dogs. We're told that there's going to be an extra police presence both at the gates and at the screening checkpoints as well.

We have actually given our cards to a couple of people who went through the metal detectors. We're hoping that perhaps once they begin to board the plane, we will find out exactly what kind of questions security is asking them. So we're on top of that. But again, there's going to be a very long wait today at most airports.

BALDWIN: Deb Feyerick, live for us in Detroit this morning. We'll check back in with you. Deb, thank you.

HOLMES: There were long waits yesterday as you can imagine as well. A lot of people who were on board that flight that landed in Detroit, they had to go through long lines of scrutiny. They had to also be questioned as well. A lot of people reacted to the incident on that plane yesterday. Jus take a listen to a few of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we heard in the beginning was a bang. Sounded first like a balloon being popped and then there was a minute later there was a lady shouting back and she was saying things like, what are you doing, what are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard a loud pop. There was smoke and then some flames. Then yelling and screaming.

MELINDA DENNIS, WITNESS: From what we can tell, there was a gentleman that had some sort of device on him that caused him to catch on fire.

RICHELLE KEEPMAN, WITNESS: All of a sudden heard some screams and flight attendants ran up and down the aisles. I think we knew at the point when we saw the fear in the flight attendants' eyes and they grabbed the fire extinguishers and then also we smelled a bunch of smoke. And apparently someone in the front of the plane, I don't know if he lit himself on fire or lit something on his lap and it went up in flames.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said there's fire. Bring water, people bringing water. Then two of the hostesses brought fire extinguisher and they put out the fire. And then one guy, a sturdy (ph) guy put a lock on his head and dragged him to the front.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn't say anything. He was injured. He was burnt quite severely on his leg. They were very careful in trying to make sure that he had nothing else on him, so it was easy to see that from the exposure that he had gotten significantly burned. He was very calm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now times are always different and these things come up, unfortunately. So it's not too surprising. And it doesn't alarm us too much as to what happened, but it's disappointing and I'm sorry to hear that it still happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just pray and thank God that nobody was hurt, that this guy goes to jail for as long as he needs to go and gets reeducated. Find out what life really is.


BALDWIN: So beyond the investigations in Nigeria, Amsterdam and Detroit, there's a new development this morning. There's now an investigation in central London this morning. Here's what we're hearing, essentially that counter terrorism officers are searching several homes in a central part of London.

HOLMES: We want to go to our Nic Roberts, our senior international correspondent. Nic, thank you for being with us. Brooke was just saying, we've been hearing Yemen, Nigeria, Amsterdam, Detroit. Now we're throwing in London as a part of the story.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, T.J.. What we're hearing from the metropolitan police who run the police service here in London is that they have counter terrorism police officers searching a number of premises in the center of London. They say they are doing this at the request of U.S. authorities.

I've just been out to have a look at one of the premises they're searching. It is a very ornate, expensive, large, grand-looking building. And what we understand is that possibly this is one of the residences that this young man was using when he was living in London. Again, the police saying that they're acting on information given to them by U.S. authorities.

The idea that perhaps this young man was a poor student, in my mind, was completely squashed when I looked at this building if, in fact, this was somewhere where he was living. He would have clearly needed a lot of money. This was a very expensive looking apartment building with a security camera outside in a very up market part of London. So this man clearly, it would appear at this stage, at least, a man of not insubstantial financial means.

We also understand from the Department of Transport here in Britain that anyone boarding a flight from the United -- to the United States from now on, again, at the request of U.S. authorities, that person in the United Kingdom will have to go through a series of security checks. These will be given to everyone, we are told, not on a selected basis. Everyone wanting to board a flight to the United States from Great Britain will have to go through one of those security -- personal security checks -- T.J.? BALDWIN: Brooke here. Nic, let me ask you this. Beyond the heightened security really it sounds like globally, I want to go back to the investigation. I know they're reporting what we're reading is your reporting so I just want to ask you. Is this the only location that the metropolitan police in London are searching or might there be other homes, other apartments which might then perhaps lead to the question, might there be other people involved?

ROBERTSON: That's very tough to answer. Certainly the police have told us they are looking at a number of locations. Does that mean other people were included? Does it mean the location where this man was living and where he perhaps studied or where he was working or where maybe he had other friends.

It would certainly be normal in investigations like this where the police are trying to gather as much information as possible, as quickly as possible so that they can thwart any other potential terror acts if there are any planned out there right now, that they would go to every location that they knew this person had visited because they would want to meet the people who were there and scour any belongings, any computers, anything that would give them any clues about a possible wider network of people.

But all we know for sure at the moment is that a number of premises are being searched and one of them appears it may have been and we're still running this down here, may have been the last address that this man was living at in London. Again they're still trying to run that piece of information down.

BALDWIN: A lot of questions. We appreciate your reporting, you're staying on this, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson for us in London. Nic, thank you.

HOLMES: Talk about some of the questions we do have right now and trying to get some of those answers. Sajjahn Gohel is a leading international terror expert. He's on the line with us now. Sir, thank you for hopping on with us here.

I guess I want to get your reaction first to what's happening in London, the London connection there. I don't know how much you may have heard about it so far. Still, what is your reaction to hear that they are, in fact, checking out some spots in London?

SAJJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT (via telephone): Well, in fact, T.J., there's a strong suspicion that the individual actually studied at a university in London. The university college London, which is a very well established, well renowned university. It has a number of different campuses throughout the city. And it's not uncommon for people from abroad to study there.

And certainly it's something the authorities are now looking at, is that was this an isolated event when he studied, there? Had he established contact with other individuals? Was there a cell that was connected? This is all speculation. But the starting point is to see how long he studied at university college London and what actually transpired from his time in London. HOLMES: It's another thing here, help us understand. A lot of people are scratching their heads about because we have seen past plots where folks wanted to blow up a plane, maybe over the water, coming across the Atlantic possibly. Why would he, in your opinion, might be hard to try to figure this out just yet without asking him and get inside his head, but why? What would be the logic in waiting and getting to Detroit before blowing up a plane?

GOHEL: Well, we know that al Qaeda and their affiliates have a crazed obsession in targeting the aviation industry, especially trans Atlantic flights. But what is interesting is that since September 11th, there have been a lot of failed or disrupted plots. Of course, we know of Richard Reid who perhaps stupidly somewhat tried of set off his device in the full gaze of the people around him.

And then, of course, what's interesting is that Richard Reid had a connection to Amsterdam because, the fact that he traveled abroad a lot with al Qaeda having paid for his visit, he then pretended to have lost his passport in Amsterdam and claimed that he needed a new one, which the British embassy in the Netherlands gave him.

In addition, his co-conspirator (INAUDIBLE) was supposed to bring down a trans Atlantic plane leaving Amsterdam (INAUDIBLE) airport to the U.S. But he chickened out at the last minute. So again, we're seeing a Dutch connection in this and of course, as Deborah Feyerick mentioned, it is eight years to the month that Richard Reid's failed attack took place.

All this combined, it raises a lot of interesting questions to see whether this is an al Qaeda affiliated plot and whether, again, there was much training involved in the individual who seemed to be quite naive in how he tried to carry it out.

HOLMES: Well, thank goodness some of these terrorists unfortunately we've dealt with in the past, but then thank goodness they aren't too good at their jobs in some of these cases. Sajjan Gohel, again, we appreciate you hopping back on the phone. We might be calling you back today. Appreciate having you on today. Thanks for hoppiing on. Thanks so much.

A lot more to cover on this story again this morning. Again, we will not at any point go too far away from this story. Again, an attempted terror attack in the U.S., a plane that was landing in Detroit, a man tried to blow it up according to security officials. He did not do it but he was about to change maybe the way we are going to travel certainly this weekend but maybe in the future.

Coming up as well, our terrorism expert, Peter Bergen, is going to be along to answer some more of our questions. Also we're going to be looking at this weekend's travel security issues and we'll continue to hear from passengers who were on that flight, Northwest flight 253. It's 17 minutes past the hour. You're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.



HOLMES: Flight 253 departed from Amsterdam heading for Detroit, but with the terror suspects properly searched from getting on the Northwest flight from his connecting flight? Again we know this passenger according to officials tried to set off some kind of device, an explosive device, incendiary device as he was landing in Detroit.

Richard Quest is following this story and the angle for us in Amsterdam (INAUDIBLE) airport. Richard, help us here the best you can. What are they telling you? How much scrutiny was he under, security scrutiny, did this passenger go through once he got to that airport in Amsterdam?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think there you have just put your finger on the difference. It's a (INAUDIBLE) difference. Some people talk about security. Other people talk about secondary searches, gate searches, random searches, mandatory searches. The gist of it all seems to come down to this.

According to the officials here at (INAUDIBLE), he was -- there is a procedure for searching all connecting passengers joining U.S. flights over on gates E and G. So at the gate, if the plan had worked as it was supposed to, he would have been searched. We're waiting for a statement from the counter terrorism authorities as to what exactly happened in relation to this passenger yesterday. But they say the procedure is clear. Now, other airports have different standards and different types.

Tonight, though, as a result of a request from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, all airports are going to elevate the level of searches at the gate for passengers flying to the U.S. And that means no longer will it just be random in some cases. Everybody will have their bags searched. They will be patted and they will go through metal detectors.

HOLMES: All right. You said a difference in terminology maybe. We know he was supposed to go through security screening but that means one thing to folks here in the U.S. So security screening there for an international passenger about to head to the U.S., would that mean he would have had to, again, take off his shoes, take liquids, go through screening, only three ounce bottles? Is that the same there as it is here in the U.S.?

QUEST: Well, now I'm afraid we're about to swim into some very deep water. The reality is, it depends on the airport. At some point every passenger has gone through that process. No question about it. At some point there has been the bottles, the liquids and all these other things.

So, yes, for example, at London Heathrow you do it as you go through the departure lounge and then there's a random search at the gate. What we can tell you tonight is that here at (INAUDIBLE) there was a procedure in place for all of that. Yes, the bottles, the liquids, the hand gels, that was all in place. What they have yet to tell us is whether or not he went through it. HOLMES: All right. Richard, we appreciate you. We are all trying to figure this out and map this out, these different security procedures. But we appreciate you breaking that down for us from there. We will be checking in again. Thank you so much.

And again, folks, we are not going to be too far away from this story at any point. Again, someone trying to possibly set off an explosive, incendiary device some are calling it aboard a flight that was coming from Amsterdam landing in Detroit on Christmas day. Everybody is OK. The suspect is in custody. Set something off and burned himself. He was the only person injured in this thing.

But still, it's going to change the way you travel certainly over this holiday. Some tighter scrutiny at airports. We're hearing from people we have at airports saying lines are really long. We're seeing more bomb-sniffing dogs that are out.

So all of that is happening. A major breaking news and still developing story and also we're going to be checking in with our terrorism expert, Peter Bergen, going to be joining us in just a moment to help us try to understand exactly what's been happening.

Also, looking at all those security travel issues and we'll continue to hear from a lot of passengers out there who are dealing with this mess this weekend. But also, some passengers who are actually aboard that Northwest flight 253. Stay with us on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


BALDWIN: There are still so many questions when it comes to this attempted terror attack onboard this flight, this Northwest flight from Afghanistan to Detroit. A lot of people are asking questions ...

HOLMES: Amsterdam. You had Afghanistan on the brain.

BALDWIN: Excuse me.

HOLMES: It's Amsterdam, that's all right.

BALDWIN: Thank you for correcting me. Amsterdam to Detroit, including the president. He was briefed on the incident. He's on vacation right now in Hawaii. He got details during a secure phone call with aides.

HOLMES: And our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is traveling with the president.


ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: T.J., senior officials tell CNN that the White House believes this was an attempted terror attack and that's why even though he's on vacation here in Hawaii, the president has been getting secure briefings from the White House situation room back in Washington all of the way here to Hawaii so he can stay on top of the situation. It all started on Christmas morning around 9:00, 9:30 in the morning here in Hawaii. That's five hours back from the east coast where the president decided to convene a secure conference call with two of this top aides, John Brennan, his principle homeland security adviser, as well as Dennis McDonnell (ph), the national security council's staff.

We're told by White House spokesman Bill Burton (ph) that on that call the president ordered Federal officials to do everything they can to increase aviation security all around the country. Officials say that could mean more canine dogs at security checkpoints. It could mean officials taking a closer look at behavior, looking for people who may be acting suspiciously.

Obviously all this could cause more delays at airports during what has already been a very frustrating holiday travel season. But administration officials say that security is paramount, obviously, in this situation. The White House very sensitive, also, to making sure the president is on top of this situation even while he's on vacation.

He's obviously been talking a lot about the economy, health care in recent weeks and months. But the president himself has said publicly and his aides repeat privately that protecting the American people is always his first priority -- Brooke, T.J.


BALDWIN: Ed Henry traveling with the president. Now, the suspect here, this 23-year-old Nigerian national that we're talking about as part of this attempted attack here, he has now drawn authorities to a map essentially of his trail of terror leading them to a country that has become a hotbed for terrorist recruiting.

We will take a closer look at Yemen.

HOLMES: All right and all of this because of all that happened yesterday and this alleged plot is going to change your day. It's going to change your life maybe for the next several days.


HOLMES: A lot of people out there, you're either flying today or this weekend or you know somebody, a loved one doing so. The security at airports even tighter, even tougher; we are starting to hear some of those horror stories and see the pictures of just how long these lines are at airports today. And it's still early here, folks.

We're going to have some travel tips that could maybe speed up the process just a bit. We're at the bottom of the hour. A quick break we're right back.


BALDWIN: Checking our top story really this morning. This 23- year-old suspect is in custody in what U.S. officials are calling an attempted terrorist attack on an airliner. You are looking at this CNN exclusive photo of the suspect; there he is in a white t-shirt, bottom right of your screen. He's being held there, actually being taken out of the airplane by security officials.

The picture, by the way, taken by one of the passengers on the plane; and here's what we know. Authorities say this Nigerian national ignited some kind of small explosive device. What it was, we don't know. But this happened just before this Northwestern flight from Amsterdam landed at Detroit's airport yesterday, Christmas Day.

Now, another passenger in his 20s, younger passenger helped the cabin crew subdue the suspect, farther back in the plane, the fear as we understand from different passengers, it was palpable.


MELINDA DENNIS, WITNESS: We were coming in from Flight 253 in Amsterdam when right at the end of the flight, right when we were about to land, there was some commotion in the back. And from what we can tell, there was a gentleman had some sort of device on him that caused him to catch on fire. They put out the fire, brought him up front where they stripped him down to make sure he had nothing else.

And they brought him -- took him off the plane. We landed at about 12:40ish, around there. Well, around 12:00 or so, actually we landed quick, but we've been in containment ever since then.

RICHELLE KEEPMAN, WITNESS: We were in the back of the plane and all of a sudden heard some screams and flight attendants ran up and down the aisles. And I think we knew at the point when we saw the fear in the flight attendants' eyes and they grabbed the fire extinguishers and then also we smelled a bunch of smoke. And apparently someone in the front of the plane, I don't know if he lit himself on fire or lit something on his lap and it went up in flames.


BALDWIN: So who is this suspect, this Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab? Well, senior U.S. officials say authorities believe the suspect was acting alone here, had no formal ties to any organized terrorist group. The suspect is being treated now for burns he sustained on his legs at a Michigan hospital.

At CNN we are covering this whole story from every angle globally and here at home. We have Kate Bolduan there at Dulles International Airport and Deb Feyerick joining us from the Detroit airport.

I want to begin with Deb. Deb, I know that long lines, a lot of dogs are inside; they are watching all the people as they're hopping on these planes. Security is heightened.

But I want to start first with the suspect and what you know on talking to some of your sources. We understand he is talking to the FBI and he's talking a lot.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right, which obviously is very good news for the FBI. What we can tell you is that they are looking at the path that he took. Right now he has been linked to several countries, including Yemen, Nigeria, Amsterdam and London where he appears to have studied all of this before coming to the United States.

Now, official memo last night said, that in fact, he had claimed that he had ties to some extremist organizations. However, the FBI is now pursuing there's a possibility that, in fact, he was acting as a lone Jihadi, he was a lone wolf but still they want to run down and make sure that he didn't have any additional ties to any sort of terror organization and see whether, in fact, he had some training or not.

Those are all the things that they have to determine because that's going to figure out who he met with, who he spoke with, where he got the materials he got. Clearly the big question, how was he able to get these materials on board not just one plane but two planes. Another question, why did he wait to try to detonate that explosive not over the ocean, which is sort of the M.O. of many of these wannabe terrorists. Why did he wait until he was just miles from the Detroit Airport to try do this?

Now, I did speak to a woman yesterday. She said that there was a lot of commotion when all of this happened, that passengers did hear sort of a loud noise followed by smoke.

I asked her whether the smoke was enough to fill the cabin. She said no. She said, it did become a little bit smoky, but visibility always remained there. People did know, however, that something was going on. A man behind her, she said, leaped over the seat to try to get to this guy and subdue him.

Again, all of this consistent to what other eyewitnesses are telling us. We do know, also, the timing is something that the FBI is going to be looking into, why eight years to the month of Richard Reid did this man try to bring down a plane. Again, al Qaeda operatives sometimes try to time these things for a particular holidays, particular sort of significant dates.

Not clear who he is, where he came from, but all of this right now under investigation. We do know that he studied in London and that's one thing that they're trying to figure out. Who did he meet while he was there?

The FBI does know the kind of material that he used, they're getting that out to the airports to let them know exactly what's going on so that we were inside just earlier and we were told and we heard actually an announcement saying due to heightened security alerts that some passengers may be restricted as to what they can bring on board -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, it makes sense a lot of people taking extra precautions. Hopefully people will get to the airports early as the lines will be long, but for a very good reason. Deb Feyerick, live for us in Detroit this morning, Deb, thank you.

HOLMES: So that's a question in mind of many folks. A lot of passengers out there and also family of their loved ones, those passengers out there who are going to be flying today. What security changes can you see at the airports in spite of what happened on that flight 253.

Kate Bolduan is covering that for us at Dulles today. My goodness, Kate, what difference a few hours make; you and I, it's something else, we were on the air yesterday when the story first broke. And officials were talking about possible firecrackers being set off. We know that is not the case. This is going to be a game changer for this weekend.

You're at Dulles, which can be a headache sometimes just on a Tuesday. But now on this travel holiday, with this security issue, what's it like, what should they expect there?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've been here for a few hours and really getting a sense of what this very popular airport is like today, very popular with international and both domestic flights; many international carriers flying in and out of Dulles airport. T.J., you and I were on this yesterday. But what a difference a few hours makes, as you said.

The Department of Homeland Security early on yesterday, I would say, issued a statement saying that passengers may see additional security measures at airports for both domestic and international flights. What does that mean for the flying public today?

Well, administration officials say it could mean more explosive detection K-9 units, bomb-sniffing dogs if you will, added gate screenings, more personal attention and personal scrutiny at the gates as well as the addition or the inclusion or stepped up inclusion of some more behavior detection specialists. These are people who are really trained to really be able to detect suspicious behavior in and around the airport so people could be seeing that as well.

But administration officials stress that this is supposed to be unpredictable. This is meant -- TSA calls it a layered approach, really. It's supposed to be unpredictable. It's not supposed to -- the measures that are going to be put into place are not going to be the same from one airport to the next.

Clearly, T.J., they do not want to tip their hand today on exactly what stepped up security measures people are going to see, and what's going on both seen and behind the scenes, at airports across the country.

HOLMES: Like you say, a lot of it you are going to notice, but so much of it you will not. But again, the terror alert level has not gone up at airports, still at orange. That doesn't mean that things haven't changed.

Again, we appreciate you. We'll be checking in again with you. Kate Bolduan for us at Dulles, thanks so much.

BALDWIN: Since officials are taking some of these extra precautions at airports you can definitely expect extra longer lines. But there are some things, some things you can do to help speed up that process. Josh Levs has that this morning -- Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hey there Brooke. I'm going to be going through some tips with you. We're also reaching out in all sorts of ways to people all over the country if you're in an airport today to tell us about your actual experience.

We're actually going to start off with that because joining us right now is our own Chad Myers who is at Atlanta's Hartsfield airport, the busiest passenger airport in the world.

Chad, are you there?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): I am, Josh.

LEVS: All right great. So Chad, talk to me. You're at the airport, you went through security. How bad was it this morning?

MYERS: I would say it was a good 15 to 20 minutes for me to get through security and I did not check a bag. I stood in the line at the kiosk check bag -- that would have been at least 20 minutes.

And I was talking to the flight attendants here as I got on the plane. They said, we came out of Jacksonville this morning and in fact, we had to leave people because they weren't getting through security. There was another plane 20 minutes behind us. So those people probably still made their connections here but I found that curious that the plane actually left without people even though they knew people were in the line.

LEVS: Well, Chad, let me set it up for you. You're saying 20 minutes to get through security but you go through a different line from most people. You were in that medallion (ph) line that's supposed to go a lot faster. A lot of people having it -- you told me that you experienced this morning security is about twice as long as usual, right?

MYERS: I would say it was twice as long as usual. I also noted one peculiar thing, I fly with a child all the time and you can bring bottles on for a baby.

I did notice a little bit of extra scrutiny for those baby bottles and that water that moms were bringing on for their formula and all that was being taken over to the side for a secondary screening and that doesn't always happen that I could see.

LEVS: I think you said -- I know you got flights to catch but you called me after I was on last hour. You said you saw a family that was pulled aside for about ten minutes while they were going through baby bottles with milk or formula.

MYERS: Yes, I found that a little bit curious because people do fly with baby bottles all the time. And they were going through, making sure that the bottles were sealed. That the apple juice boxes were, in fact, unpunctured.

I just kind of looked over and notice that that seemed a little bit at higher level than normal. And also something else, Josh, I don't know if you notice this or not. But every bag that's going on our plane now is being scanned like a UPS scanner, like a FedEx guy, you come in and scan every plane. Maybe that happens on the cargo hold sometimes and I don't see it. But I've never noticed that every bag is taken off those little Delta cart as being scanned individually and then put on the belt.

LEVS: You're actually seeing that happen. I know I got to let you go, countdown to your flight time. Last thing, are you seeing people being warned, are there officials out there saying, look, because of what happened, it's different today, expect longer lines or is it just happening?

MYERS: I think people expected it. People were here early. The people that were running -- I did notice a lot of runners, they did not anticipate that the airport parking was going to be full. And so you couldn't park at the airport; you actually had to park and ride and that cost them an extra 20 or 30 minutes and that's 20 or 30 minutes they didn't plan on.

You always say get here early, get here early and people never do. Today is a pretty good day to get to the place early.

LEVS: All right. Listen. Thanks for joining us. You will catch that flight. I know he's saying twice as long and he takes that special line. So for some people we're hearing at Hartsfield, 45 or 50 minutes.

We appreciate Chad joining us.

We have some tips out for you and we'll also be sharing them with you throughout the morning. We'll have the next hour. It's up on the blog at the newsroom blog, You can see them right now.

You also got them going -- there you go. Facebook and Twitter, Joshlevscnn.

And Brooke and T.J., I will be back with you guys in just a matter of minutes. Early next hour to talk about some of the major tips you should know for, a, getting through security fast, but also, once you're at the airport, trying to work your way fast through actually getting to the point where you're at security, getting through check-in a lot more quickly; the more people that follow that, the less hassle there'll be at the airport today.

HOLMES: All right Josh, thank you. We'll be checking in with you again in a little bit.

And again to our viewers, the big story we have this morning, still a breaking story and still fast moving and developing story, a man trying to blow up an airplane that was trying to land in Detroit on Christmas day. Passengers are okay. I want to make sure that's out there. But he is now in custody.

We're looking more into exactly who this man is, what he was trying to do, who he's affiliated with, and now what this means for all of us as so many of us and our loved ones are getting on planes this weekend. We're going to be talking to our terrorism experts.

We have a panel coming up that includes Peter Bergen, Glenn Schoen, Tom Fuentes, all going to be joining us; also looking at this weekend's travel security issues. We've seeing issues at several airports already. We'll continue to hear from passengers as well who were actually on that flight -- that Northwest flight 253.

Stay with us on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


BALDWIN: We are on top of this breaking story this morning.

This 23-year-old Nigeria national in custody this morning, basically accused of trying to blow up this plane. You are looking at a picture of 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. There he is in that white t-shirt on board that plane taken by security officials through first class, getting out of there after igniting some kind of an explosive device on his person yesterday on this plane.

Police were searching and have been searching, I should say, central London apparently, his own residence in connection with this airline plot. That's what we're getting from our own Nic Robertson there on the ground in London.

Now, CNN exclusive showing you this picture here, again, he's accused of igniting the small explosive device. Again, the flight is Northwest flight from Amsterdam landed in Detroit that's when this whole thing happened, 278 passengers onboard. Amazingly, no one seriously injured. Not only are you going to experience extra security, heightened security this morning. Nigeria as well, that's where he started from Lagos, Nigeria to Amsterdam to Detroit.

They're launching their own investigation but there has been no evidence so far that this young man has been a trained member of al Qaeda. In fact, he's not even believed to be on any no-fly list. That's the latest we have there.

Checking other top stories; police in Arkansas right now looking for two men accused of killing a Salvation Army worker, police say these two men shot Major Philip Wise during an attempted robbery outside of a charities community center. This is in North Little Rock. The victim's three children were with him at the time.

And actor Charlie Sheen has been released from jail after posting an $8,500 bond. There's his mug shot; arrested in Colorado yesterday on charges related to domestic violence. His alleged victim though has not been identified. The actor's spokesman cautions against jumping to any conclusions.


HOLMES: All right, folks. You're going to be looking at some extra screening at airports around the country today because of what happened in Detroit yesterday. A man apparently tried a terror attack on this country, trying to blow up or at least set off some kind of incendiary device aboard a plane that was coming from Amsterdam landing in Detroit on Christmas Day.

But was it the lack of security overseas that got us to this point? Joining me now: from New York, international security analyst Glenn Schoen; also joining us this morning, Tom Fuentes, CNN contributor and former FBI assistant director of international operations -- he's joining us from San Francisco; and of course as always, here over the weekend with us is Peter Bergen, a CNN terrorism analyst. He's joining us from Washington, D.C.

Glenn, let me start with you here. We're still trying to learn as much as we can about this device. But whatever he had, from what you've heard so far and what we've seen in the past, would this have been something that was capable of taking that plane down?

GLENN SCHOEN, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, not clear yet. I mean, we've seen very small devices used in tests, which caused very severe damage to aircraft frames. We've done a lot of testing with that here in the United States. Several countries overseas, including in the UK, have done extensive testing on this.

And it is scary to see what very small amounts of well-placed explosives can do. And one of the key questions here will be why did this person pick that seat near the window? Was this deliberately chosen? Was the manner in which he tried to set off the device, was there a special methodology to that, to that particular height or against the skin of the aircraft or near a bulkhead; all of these still open questions.

HOLMES: All right, Tom, how critical is it going to be now to quickly identify whatever it was he was trying to use and how quickly can we get that information out to other airports and airlines and TSA to make sure that no one else is able to do what he was able to do, which is get this stuff on board?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning, T.J., that's going to take some time because you have different chemicals that are going to be analyzed to determine what they were. You know, we don't know at this point that it absolutely was explosive material. We know that he set himself on fire on that aircraft.

It could be what arson investigators refer to as an accelerant, which are chemicals designed to start and spread fire quickly. And maybe he was just trying to set the whole plane on fire. That'll be determined by the analysis and that could take days -- it could take several days to determine.

HOLMES: And Peter, pick up on that point there for me. I guess starting a fire on a plane, that would terrify anybody, and I guess that in itself very definition would be terrorism. But I guess versus blowing up a plane and setting a fire on a plane. What does that say to you for, I guess, methods and intent of this guy?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think there's a long history of al Qaeda or affiliated groups trying to do something like this on a plane, starting in 1994. There was the so-called Pajinka (ph) plot, Ramzi Yussif (ph) and his uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the operational commander of 9/11 dreamed up a plan to bring down 12 American airliners in flight in Asia and they actually ran a test. They blew up a bomb on a plane in Asia which they assembled in the bathroom and they got off the plane and the bomb killed a Japanese businessman.

This has been part of the al Qaeda playbook for a decade and a half now. And it's also, it's not dream-a-vision, it's actually something you can actually do. And again, in the summer of 2006, that was the plan to assemble bombs on a plane; liquid explosives and to bring down seven American-Canadian airliners. Again an al Qaeda directed plot.

So we don't know who this guy's affiliation are but certainly it looks and smells very like an al Qaeda driven thing. And the fact that we're seeing all these searches in London I think is very significant. There is no country in the world with a higher presence in western country of al Qaeda sympathizers than the United Kingdom.

HOLMES: All right, well, Glenn, I want to bring Glenn back in on something, you're kind of talking about there as far as the methods, you said, it's kind of looks like al Qaeda.

Glenn, I guess, what are the chances here that security missed something versus this guy came up with something new? You know, I mean, there are so many things we actually look for, security does as people get on a plane. So was this a lapse in security, he got creative of about getting something on a plane, or was he possibly, do you think, with the chances are, he found something new that our security at airports not looking for right now?

SCHOEN: Well, perhaps the latter. I mean, we know that the certain ingredients we have to look for, except it's very tough for security screening personnel. We look so much to the past but what is it that we need to look for. We look at all the different devices that we found over the years, devices we ourselves can think of as analyst, we're looking at security, how can we improve this.

But there's always new variants and Peter said it well earlier. I mean, until we know what came through here will we know if it was something actually recognizable or just a lot of disparate elements brought together.

HOLMES: All right, Glenn, Tom, Peter, you all stand by. We've got so many more questions. I think you all can stick around and stay with us after the break. We've got to get a quick one in. And well, we're going to continue this conversation, we reset the story and tell you again, so many of our viewer the details of what's we're seeing today, what's happening with this terror plot and how it's going to affect you and your traveling loved ones, possibly.

A quick break; CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.