The cause for alert and the closure of U.S. embassies and consulates overseas this past Sunday has been revealed to be an intercepted communique between al-Qaeda leaders, saying that they "wanted to do something big." Sunday was the day after the Muslim holiday Laylat al-Qadr, which celebrates the 27th night of Ramadan and the day the Koran was revealed to Mohammed.
The communication is reported to be between Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as the head of al-Qaeda, and Nasir al-Wahishi, leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It is also thought possible that al-Wahishi has been appointed second-in-command of the terrorist network. According to NBC News, the intercepted messages did not speak to specifics on a target, but the U.S. government the likely location would be within Yemen, where al Qaeda is powerful and organized enough to pull off a significant attack.
House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC:
There's a high level of confidence in the sources of the information. We get chatter all the time ... But to take this kind of a broad action, to shut down this many embassies over this broad terrain, to have multiple briefings to the President ... that demonstrates a high level of confidence that this threat is real.
The embassies are scheduled to remain closed for the rest of the week, indicating the State Department still believes the threat is possibly imminent. The State Department also noted that many of the embassies were scheduled to close this week anyway, marking the end of Ramadan. Even so, according to NBC Correspondent Pete Williams, “There is no information here suggesting that this is any kind of attack planned for the homeland.”