The intelligence community has known for months about planned attacks by al-Qaida on American interests including embassies, according to a report in The Washington Free Beacon
"Al-Qaida 'chatter' about coming terrorist operations, mainly against 22 U.S. embassies and consulates, and threats to attack or bomb officials in the Middle East and elsewhere were widely reported in classified intelligence reports over several months. The report said an attack was planned for Sunday, although no attack was carried out," writes Free Beacon intelligence reporter Bill Gertz.
While administration and congressional officials have cited intercepted communications between the head of al-Qaida in Pakistan and affiliates in Yemen to justify the closures
, Gertz says intelligence officials have expressed concern that the closures are a political response.
"Why is this coming out now?" asked one official with access to terrorist threat data, Gertz reported. "Is the administration trying to suck up news coverage with the embassy threats to distract attention from what the CIA was doing in Benghazi?"
In a Worldwide Travel alert
issued on August 2, the State Department explained that current information "suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August."
The State Department
issued a specific travel warning for Yemen on Tuesday, advising Americans in the country to "be aware of their surroundings whether in their residences or moving about, make their own contingency emergency plans." State and administration officials have been silent on what measures, if any, will be taken after the alert expires on August 31.
While not suggesting politics played a role in the closures, former U.S. ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros John Price expressed confusion as to why the administration went public with the threats.
"We've had threats, but we never went to the media with them and we didn't deal with it the way it's being dealt with today," he said on Fox News
. Price also wondered why the embassies in Nigeria have remained open despite al-Shabaab's presence.
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