"He had been deployed before Dec. 17," the official told ABC News' Jake Tapper. "They'd like to make this seem like retaliation, but the reason they tried to blow up the plane is because they have a hateful, murderous agenda. And that's why we're on the forward lean against them."
In a statement posted on the internet, the al Qaeda group said it gave explosives to terror suspect Abdulmutallab.
"He managed to penetrate all devices and modern advanced technology and security checkpoints in international airports bravely without fear of death," the group said in the statement.
The device, however, failed to detonate and instead set Abdulmutallab on fire.
The government of Yemen issued a statement today confirming that Abdulmutallab was in Yemen from early August to early December 2009 to study Arabic at a language institute, and that his passport had a valid U.S. visa.
The statement also said investigations are being conducted by Yemeni security agencies to identify any other individuals who may be linked to him, and immediate action would be taken against any accomplices determined.
The government statement said Yemen condemns "such criminal acts that kill innocent civilians" and that it "is and remains an active partner of the international community in the war against terrorism. Efforts of Yemeni security agencies to continue ongoing operations and prosecutions against terrorist operatives from Al-Qaeda will not falter."
White House officials say the president has been briefed regularly and has held secured conference calls with administration officials. But he has no plans to change his travel schedule, a move that has drawn criticism from some Republicans who say the Obama administration hasn't done enough to prevent such terror attacks.
Obama today commended passengers for their "quick and heroic actions," and said he has announced additional security measures on flights, such as adding air marshals. The president has also ordered a review of the incident and of the U.S. "watch list system and how it can be strengthened."
Just a day after she told ABC News the "system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano flip-flopped and admitted that changes need to be made to the passenger screening system.
"Clearly, there's some work that needs to be done to link up what we call the tie, the generic base in which his name had been entered, to those who already have visas," Napolitano said on "Good Morning America" today. "We want to go backward now and review our list processes. ... They clearly need to be adjusted. We need to look at this individual specially, and the screening technology that was deployed."
Obama today said he has directed his national security team to "keep up pressure on those who would attack the country."
U.S. security agencies are scrambling to determine what went wrong in the screening process.
Abdulmutallab was on the U.S. government's terrorist watch list but not on its no-fly list, which would have prevented him from boarding Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit.
He was also placed on the United Kingdom's watch list after he was refused a student visa 14 months ago.