Abdulmutallab worked with the Yemen branch of al-Qaeda, whose leader, American-born Anwar al-Aulaqi, is still free in southern Yemen.

The new information exposes a shift in terrorist planning — from the 9/11 plotters more closely aligned with the al-Qaeda core on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, who purchased first class seats on a flight to Los Angeles, to a plot planned by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that cares less about the symbolism of the location. Erik Hayden at the Atlantic Wire points out: “It's a reminder that prominent American cities like New York, D.C., L.A., or Chicago aren't the sole targets of foreign terrorists, who appear to be looking to strike the most convenient targets — no matter where they're located.”

Al-Qaeda has made it a point to brag about its cost-cutting. The Post's Craig Whitlock reported on the group's outreach and recruitment a few months ago, specifically Al-Qaeda's "Inspire" Magazine.

In their November 2010 issue, the magazine listed dollar amounts and added up costs of previous terror efforts, showcasing just how cheap its become to operate. The Yemeni-branch is rising to new prominence. Said Whitclock: "The Yemeni chapter - once confined to the Arabian desert - has boosted its ambitions and sophistication by drawing on a pool of international recruits. The new members come from North America, South Asia, North Africa and Europe and are lending their skills in critical areas, from making bombs to designing propaganda."