The State Department has closed 19 U.S. consulates and embassies for a week after a National Security Agency surveillance program identified a possible al Qaeda-planned attack during the Eid’l Fitr celebration, Reuters reported Monday.
Tabassum Zakaria writes a list of regions and areas where diplomatic operations have been suspended from August 4 to 9 include the Middle East, Africa, Burundi, Madagascar, Mauritius and Rwanda.
“There is an awful lot of chatter out there,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was quoted as saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Zakaria reports the potential threat was determined through the NSA initiative in which electronic information called “intercepts” are collected from phone calls and emails.
“If we did not have these programs then we simply wouldn’t be able to listen in on the bad guys,” Chambliss said.
Reuters notes Sen. Lindsey Graham described the U.S. government’s global alert as a means to prevent a repeat of last year’s attack in Benghazi where four Americans died.
“We’ve learned from Benghazi, thank God, and the administration is doing this right,” it quoted Graham as saying on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
A total of 21 U.S. diplomatic missions were closed Sunday and some, including Algiers, Baghdad and Kabul, were to reopen Monday.
According to the Reuters report, U.S. lawmakers on Sunday played down criticisms that the NSA surveillance activities invaded citizen’s right to privacy and stressed that the intelligence efforts aim to prevent acts of violence.
“We’ve received information that high-level people from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are talking about a major attack,” noted Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat on the House Committee on Intelligence.