The al Qaeda threat that closed US embassies in the Middle East is the most serious in years and the “chatter” among suspected terrorists is reminiscent of what preceded the September 11 attacks, a US lawmaker who is briefed on intelligence said.
The State Department closed 21 embassies and consulates and issued a worldwide travel alert warning Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.
“There is an awful lot of chatter out there,” Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
He said the “chatter” – communications among terrorism suspects about the planning of a possible attack – was “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11”.
A National Security Agency surveillance programme that electronically collects communications on cell phones and emails – known as intercepts – had helped gather intelligence about this threat, Chambliss said.
It was one of the NSA surveillance programs revealed by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to media outlets.
Those programmes “allow us to have the ability to gather this chatter”, Chambliss said. “If we did not have these programmes then we simply wouldn’t be able to listen in on the bad guys.”