19 U.S. embassies remain closed through week due to terror threat

The government shut down 22 U.S. embassies Sunday. Photo: DVIDSHUB

WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - Amid online "chatter" about terror threats, U.S. diplomatic posts in 19 cities in the Muslim world will be closed at least through the end of this week, the State Department said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continues to sound the alarm about known terrorists in wiretaps, saying that an attack is going to be big: "We believe that this threat is significant, and we are taking it seriously."

On Friday, the White House announced the weekend closures and the State Department announced a global travel alert. The warning urged American travelers to take extra precautions overseas, citing potential dangers involved with public transportation systems and other prime sites for tourists.

And as the U.S. keeps closed more than 20 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa, District residents watch and worry—even though security levels here seem to be business as usual.

"I haven't seen any significant change no -- I'm not as worried about what might happen in Washington, I'm concerned for friends I have working abroad," said Arlington resident Jessica Sloan.

Metro has issued an advisory to employees to immediately report unattended items or suspicious activity and to check for items left under seats or hidden behind other objects.

For U.S. officials, a big concern is surgically implanted suicide bombs that cannot be detected, which Al-Qaeda has used before. With the approach of the 15th anniversary of the August 7th U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as 9/11 at the end of Ramadan, the White House can only speculate about Middle East targets.

"Threat could potentially be beyond that or elsewhere," said Carney.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decision to keep the embassies and consulates shuttered is a sign of an "abundance of caution" and is "not an indication of a new threat."

Lawmakers, though, said the intercepted chatter suggested that a major terrorist attack was in the planning stages. One lawmaker said the chatter was specific as to certain dates and the scope of the operation.

"This is the most serious threat that I've seen in the last several years," Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia told NBC's "Meet the Press Sunday. "Chatter means conversation among terrorists about the planning that's going on - very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11."

Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who leads the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, told ABC that the threat "was specific as to how enormous it was going to be and also that certain dates were given."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a House Intelligence Committee member, said while he takes the threat seriously he hasn't seen any evidence linking the latest warnings to that agency's collection of "vast amounts of domestic data."

Other lawmakers defended the administration's response and promoted the work of the NSA in unearthing the intelligence that led to the security warnings.

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