The intelligence was initially based on a United Nations team that tracks terrorist groups.
"Probably the most sophisticated terrorist bomb maker on the planet. Incredibly creative, incredibly innovative," former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS News.
Al-Asiri, of Saudi Arabia, was known for his miniaturized bombs with little or no metal content that had better odds of getting past airport security.
Investigators said al-Asiri was behind a terrorist plot in Detroit in 2009 that became known as the "underwear bomb." Suspect Umar Farouk Adbdul Mutallab was sentenced in 2012 to life in prison for smuggling the bomb aboard the airliner under his clothing.
Officials said the bomb failed only because Mutallab failed to properly detonate it.
Another close call came a year later, when officials say al-Asiri plotted to hide explosive devices in print cartridges shipped to the United States. The items made it through airport security, but the attack was averted when authorities were tipped off to the threat.
Al-Asiri is also believed to be behind more recent work to develop bombs hidden in laptops.