U.S. lawmakers and former high-ranking officials say the closing of more than 20 American embassies and consulates and the issuance of a global travel alert are both extraordinary and appropriate responses to credible terrorist threats.
Republican lawmakers are often critical of President Barack Obama’s decisions. Not so when it comes to current embassy closings and a global travel warning. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Michael McCaul, spoke on the CBS Face the Nation television program.
“We are on a high state of alert," he said. "I think the administration’s call to close these embassies was actually a very smart call.”
U.S. actions can cause terrorists to rethink their plans, according to McCaul.
“When you let them [terrorists] know what you know, you put them on their heels, and they often times back down,” he said.
Fellow Republican Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the administration’s actions should dispel any notion that the threat posed by al-Qaida has vanished.
“This is a wake-up call. Al-Qaida is in many ways stronger than it was before 9-11," King said. "It has mutated and spread and it can come at us from different directions. And al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is probably the most deadly of all the al-Qaida affiliates.”
King spoke on ABC’s This Week television program. Also appearing on This Week was the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, who said there must be no repeat of last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“It was unfortunate what happened with Benghazi, and we need to learn about what happened and make sure that our highest priority will be to protect Americans," Ruppersberger said. "So we need to take every precaution, and that is what we are doing right now.”
America’s ability to monitor global communications is an invaluable tool in the war on terror, according to former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
“You are hearing the bad guys themselves talking about doing something," he said. "The challenge is [that] it is not specific. They have not yet talked about a particular target, or a particular location. And that is why you have a broad warning.”
While focusing on al-Qaida operations abroad, Chertoff said U.S. officials are also looking for clues about possible domestic terrorist activity related to the current threat.