The White House Monday discussed the ongoing threat from Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as reporters pressed President Obama's spokesman about the extension of some U.S. embassy closures.
The White House news briefing was dominated by questions about the type of "chatter" the U.S. intelligence community picked up that led to embassy closures.
The New York Times reported that the decision to close diplomatic facilities resulted from intercepted electronic communications between al-Qaida "core" chief Ayman al-Zawahri and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Quoting unidentified U.S. officials, The Times said intercepts were collected and analyzed last week, but did not reveal location or targets of potential attacks. Names of the al-Qaida and affiliate leaders were initially withheld from an earlier Times report at the request of senior intelligence officials.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney would not discuss specific intelligence. He said extensions of some embassy closures did not reflect any new information stream.
Carney declined to say what, if anything, Yemen's President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi told Obama in their Oval Office meeting last week, beyond general discussion of counter-terrorism issues.
The White House spokesman responded this way when asked what the embassy closures say about efforts against core al-Qaida and affiliates.
"Any evaluation of the actions that we have taken in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliated organizations over the last several years, and over the life of this administration, demonstrates a pretty intense focus on the fight against al-Qaida and the effort to degrade al-Qaida's abilities and the abilities of all the affiliated organizations."
After President Obama's talks with the Yemeni leader last week, a joint statement said they discussed a "range of efforts" to counter the threat to both countries from the group.
A statement late Monday from the Embassy of Yemen in Washington, announced names of what it called 25 "most wanted terrorists" planning to carry out operations in Sana'a and Yemeni governates.
It said the Yemen government has taken "all necessary precautions" to secure diplomatic facilities, vital installations and strategic assets."
In Monday's White House briefing, Jay Carney was asked about confidence that the U.S. has enough information to disrupt any potential new plot.
He said only that the threat is "significant and it is ongoing" and that the United States will continue to gather information with partners and allies to combat threats posed by terrorist organizations.
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The U.S. reopened some diplomatic missions Monday in the Middle East and Africa, as well as in Afghanistan and Bangladesh. But 19 embassies and consulates remain closed because of security concerns.