Via the AP:
[Bush] said that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks who was captured in 2003, had already begun planning the West Coast operation in October, just after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. One of Mohammed’s key planners was Hambali, the alleged operations chief of the al-Qaida related terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. Instead of recruiting Arab hijackers, Hambali found Southeast Asian men who would be less likely to arouse suspicion and who were sent to meet with Osama bin Laden, Bush said.
Under the plot, the hijackers were to use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door of a commercial jetliner, take control of the plane and crash it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, since renamed the US Bank Tower, Bush said.
The president said the plot was derailed when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al-Qaida operative. Bush did not name the country or the operative.
I’m glad to see the administration discussing these foiled plots. The plot itself sounds a bit far-fetched; I’m skeptical that hijackers would be able to get through the cockpit door with a shoe bomb AND then be able to control the plane after the damage from the shoe bomb. But nevertheless, we need reminders that the al-Qaeda threat is still real, and that we can’t afford to let down our guard.
Update (2/9): White House homeland security advisor Fran Townsend’s press briefing on the plot provides additional details.
Update 2 (2/9): LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa complains to the media that he wasn’t notified in advance about the speech:
“I’m amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels,” the mayor told The Associated Press. “I don’t expect a call from the president – but somebody.”
Update 3 (2/10): This analysis of the plot at Counterterrorism Blog is worth reading.