The so-called “chatter” about a terror plot that led the Obama administration to close 22 U.S. embassies and consulates Sunday across the Muslim world goes beyond anything heard before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Fox News sources.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, of Georgia, said Sunday the so-called “chatter” detected by U.S. intelligence agencies that led the Obama administration to order the closures and issue a global travel warning to Americans is “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.”
Sources told Fox News the chatter picked up by U.S. intelligence agents over the past two weeks exceeds anything in the last decade. And it included Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri demanding that key leaders of the terror network in the Arabian Peninsula step up their activities in the wake of recent killings of top terrorists.
The information is the most recent and detailed since the administration made the announcement Thursday.
Officials have not said whether the closures will extend beyond Sunday. However, Maria Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said following the announcement that the U.S. outposts might be closed “additional days,” depending on additional analysis. Other Western countries have also closed outposts in the region.
A Mideast diplomat says al-Zawahiri “pressuring” Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to launch new terrorist attacks on Western and American targets is “unprecedented.”
Sources also told Fox News the extraordinary volume of “chatter” follows months of “absolute quietness” on terrorist phone lines, computer outlets, websites and other communication outlets.
They said al-Zawahiri has always been a bigger proponent than his predecessor, Usama bin Laden, of a more centrally managed Al Qaeda terrorist structure, has always sought to “micromanage” AQAP, and is attempting now to assert management authority over individual cells, even if it is largely illusory.
The sources said the closures and the travel alert were also prompted by a spate of recent Al Qaeda-led prison breaks, including one in Aleppo, Syria, this weekend that have freed hundreds of Al Qaeda operatives over the last month.
The return of these individuals to their respective “battlefields” may have contributed to the escalation in “chatter” and has heightened American alarm over the plotting. Recent prison breaks have been orchestrated at Abu Ghraib in Afghanistan, as well as sites in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan.
Yemen is said to be cooperating closely with U.S. intelligence in this period, and the data given to the CIA is said to have informed the embassy closures.
Mideast diplomats say National Security Adviser Susan Rice is a driving force in the closures. They say that Rice is still stinging from the criticism about her role in the fatal attacks on the United State’s outpost in Libya and determined to avoid a repeat.
Chambliss told NBC’s “Meet the Press” it is “the most serious threat I’ve seen in a number of years.”
On Saturday, top U.S. officials met to review the threat, according to the White House.