Some of the largest terrorist attacks thwarted by the U.S. include attempts by terrorist suspects to bring down commercial airliners, plans to bomb U.S. landmarks and religious institutions, and attempts to injure or kill U.S. soldiers on American soil. These are some of the biggest terror attacks that have been foiled. In some cases, FBI informants have led to thwarted terrorist attacks. That's the case with the May 2012 underwear bombing plot. Reports say members of Al-Qaida in Yemen wanted to bring down a large jet bound for the United States, using a modified "underwear bomb." That plan was foiled by a CIA informant, who managed to infiltrate Al-Qaida, posing as a would-be suicide bomber.
Were all these terror plots thwarted by the government? Nope. Some of the terror plots listed here were thwarted by the U.S. Government. In May of 2010, two (thankfully) observant street vendors in New York's Times Square spotted a suspicious SUV with smoke coming out of it. They alerted police, and a terrorist bombing attack was foiled. Flight attendants and passengers helped to thwart "shoe bomber" Richard Reid's attempts to bring down American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami just months after 9/11. This list includes some of the biggest, most potentially deadly terrorist attacks that were stopped, whether it's by CIA or FBI informants/operatives or regular, highly observant, quick-acting citizens.
How many terrorist attacks has the U.S. government stopped? This list will answer that question.Check out more lists like Most Important False Flag Attacks in History and Famous People Who Died in Terrorist Attacks
Sears Tower Bomb Plot Thwarted (July 2006)
The Plan: A group of seven men were believed to be planning to bomb Chicago's Sears Tower, as well as FBI offices in the city, with the help of Al-Qaida. The Miami, Florida, men reportedly planned a "jihad" that they hoped would be "as good or greater than 9/11."
How It Was Thwarted: One of the suspects, Narseal Batiste, contacted a man be believed was a member of Al-Qaida, explaining his plans to wage a "jihad" against the U.S. That man was actually an FBI operative. Dozens of recordings of conversations between the two men were made, and eventually, authorities had enough evidence to bring them in. Members of the so-called "Liberty City Six" were arrested on terrorism charges.The Outcome: Five of the men, including alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste, were convicted in May of 2009. Batiste received a 13-year sentence, and four other members of the group received sentences ranging from six to 10 years in prison. A sixth member, Naudimar Herrera, was acquitted on all charges.
First Underwear Bomber Plot Thwarted (December 2009)
The Plan: On Christmas Day 2009, Nigerian Islamist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate powerful plastic explosives sewn into his underwear while on board a commercial flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Adbulmutallab was said to be working with Al-Qaida to try and bring down the plane.
How It Was Thwarted: Adbulmutallab's attempt to detonate the underwear explosives failed. Passengers on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 saw him coming out of the plane's bathroom, smelled a strange odor, and heard popping noises. A small fire broke out and as flight attendants tried to put out the flames, Adbulmutallab was restrained by passengers. Unfortunately, while U.S. intelligence did have some information about a planned attack, Adbulmutallab managed to get on the plane with his explosives.The Outcome: In February of 2012, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
New York City Synagogues Terror Plot Foiled (May 2009)
The Plan: Four Muslim men were accused of plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx, New York (the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center). They also planned on shooting down U.S. Military planes at a New York Air National Guard base.
How It Was Thwarted: A paid informant helped the FBI catch the men. Shahed Hussain met with the would-be attackers at a mosque in Newburgh, New York, posing as a terror operative. When the group planted what they believed were explosives near the Jewish Center and the Temple in May of 2009, they were apprehended by the NYPD. The explosives and missiles that they believed were real, were actually fakes supplied with the help of the FBI's informant.The Outcome: All four men, including the ringleader, James Cromitie, were convicted and sentenced to 25 years behind bars.
Times Square Bomb Plot Thwarted (May 2010)
The Plan: Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was planning to detonate a bomb hidden inside a Nissan Pathfinder in New York City's Times Square. Shahzad also reportedly planned additional attacks on other Manhattan targets, including Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center.
How It Was Thwarted: Two alert street vendors are credited with disrupting Shahzad's potentially deadly plan. On the evening of May 1, 2010, the vendors noticed smoke coming from a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was parked in Times Square (the engine was running and the SUV's hazard lights were on) at the busy intersection of West 45th Street and Broadway. They quickly alerted a nearby NYPD officer who saw canisters inside the SUV and smelled what he thought was gunpowder. The area was evacuated, a bomb squad was called in and the attack was successfully thwarted.
Within days, a Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the FBI, took over the investigation and zeroed in on Faisal Shahzad. He was arrested at JFK Airport in New York on May 3, 2010.The Outcome: Faisal Shahzad was convicted in October of 2010, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. In addition, Pakistan also arrested several suspects in the case, as Faisal was believed to have had help with his planned attack from Pakistani militants.