April 6th, 2009
08:35 PM ET

U.S. takes foiled plot to assassinate Obama 'very seriously'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/06/obama.turkey/art.obama.mon.gi.jpg caption="President Obama and Turkish President Abdullah Gul hold a joint news conference Monday."]
Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

U.S. officials have taken "very seriously" a plot to assassinate President Obama involving a Syrian man who was arrested late last week for wanting to stab Obama during his visit here to Turkey, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

But the officials strongly cautioned that American presidents are frequent targets of threats that are all watched very carefully, and in this case the alleged plotter did not appear to get anywhere close to Obama during his European tour.

The officials also noted that while Obama gets more threats than usual as the first African-American U.S. president, this particular threat did not force a single change to his schedule.

"Life goes on," said one of the officials familiar with the matter, who suggested this particular threat may be getting more attention simply because there has been such a heavy international focus on Obama's first overseas trip since taking office.

White House officials declined to comment on the matter, citing a policy of not talking about security and threats around the President, while U.S. Secret Service officials spoke only briefly about the case.

"We work closely with the host country whenever there is an arrest ... which we are doing in this matter," said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan.

The plot was first reported by the Saudia Arabian newspaper al-Watan, which revealed that Turkish security services arrested a man of Syrian origins Friday in connection with the plan to try and kill Obama during his visit to Turkey. Obama was in Strasbourg, France on Friday for a NATO Summit and did not arrive in Turkely for the final leg of his trip until Sunday.

The Saudi paper reported that the Syrian man, who was carrying an Al-Jazeera TV press credential in the name of "M.G.," confessed to authorities after his arrest that he and three alleged accomplices were plotting to stab Obama with a knife during the Alliance of Civilizations Summit in Istanbul, which Obama attended on Monday evening. The U.S. officials confirmed those allegations, but stressed to CNN that the information provided by the man is still being verified.

Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Ankara, Yucef al-Sharif, told the newspaper that his news organization knew nothing about the man and suggested he may have obtained a forged press credential. According to U.S. officials, it's unclear whether the man - a permanent resident of Istanbul - had obtained a real press credential as the investigation is still ongoing.

On Sunday, U.S. and international journalists covering Obama's trip did face more extensive searches of their baggage than usual by officials of the U.S. Secret Service before boarding a press charter flight from the Prague, Czech Republic region to Ankara, Turkey. The same more extensive searches were conducted Monday before the media on Monday before a flight from Ankara to Istanbul.

But U.S. officials downplayed the possibility that the more extensive searches were done out of a concern that plotters may have infiltrated the media. Instead the officials suggested that since Turkish security officials had not necessarily handled such a large crush of media before, U.S. Secret Service officials simply wanted to go the extra mile in their searches.

Filed under: Ed Henry • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Rick

    Oh well, He he gets gun ban deal in the US. Hes going to have to move in with OBL..LOL..

    April 7, 2009 at 5:32 am |
  2. Calvin Budgell

    As a Canadian, I have very limited knowledge regarding political agendas in the United States of America. I am very excited about your new President Obama and I feel certain he will be great for your country and indeed for the world. He shows great leadership qualities as well as holding a firm hand on the day-to-day dealings with his own government. I have no problem with a black man or woman being a President or Prime Minister in our country, when I look, I don't see color, I see a person. Race, color,religion all these are superfical, the true leadership lies in the man or woman.

    Calvin from Canada

    April 6, 2009 at 11:58 pm |
  3. Tulay C Leonhardt

    Me in Texas and my sister in Istanbul, Turkey are praying for his safety and success.

    April 6, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  4. Lilibeth

    I pray for him and his family's safety everyday.

    April 6, 2009 at 9:47 pm |
  5. Robert

    Whether the threats are domestic or foreign, the Secret Service must protect our elected President at all costs. In these desperate times, we need a smart leader with vision and instinct to help guide our country back to economic prosperity. So, if more extensive searches are needed as a result of some sketchy intelligence, then so be it!

    April 6, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    I wonder how many death threats Obama gets in the US each day? I am willing to wager its higher than other Presidents. The Secret Service will have to be especially vigilant with Obama and his family – too many narrow minded bullies that would not hesitate to make a name for themselves at Obama's expense. I've lived through the assassination of one President; I do not want to see another.

    April 6, 2009 at 8:42 pm |