U.S. intelligence officials were increasingly worried about a possible al Qaeda attack on the homeland after they intercepted what they now believe were "dry run" shipments from Yemen to Chicago in mid-September, ABC News reports. This early test for a parcel bomb attack reportedly involved "a carton of household goods including books, religious literature, and a computer disk, but no explosives." And like last week's discovery, the September "dry run" shipment had been sent from Yemen to an address in Chicago by "someone with ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."
One intelligence official told confirmed U.S. suspicions and speculated that the terrorists initially mailed the package to try and track "how long it took and whether there would be any problems for the package getting through the system."
Senior administration officials told ABC News that, after the September shipment was discovered, U.S. intelligence agencies had specific concerns about the Yemen-based group's interest in Chicago, noting not only the destination of the September shipment, but also a photograph of the Chicago skyline in a magazine recently published by the terror group's propaganda arm.
US intelligence "intercepted the packages in transit," the senior intelligence official said, searched them, and then allowed them to continue to Chicago.
"The dry run is always important to al Qaeda," said Dick Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official and now an ABC News consultant. "In this case they wanted to follow the packages using the tracking system to know exactly when they got to a point, how long the timer had to be set for, so the bomb would go off at the right point, which presumably was over Chicago."
There is some speculation that the terrorists were targeting at least one cargo flight in their plot in an attempt to abruptly halt all cargo traffic. "If one cargo plane is taken down by a bomb," said Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant and former FBI agent, "you could literally shut down cargo transport across the world."