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Security closure of U.S. embassies wins Republican praise

August 04, 2013|By David Willman
  • A Bahraini armored personnel vehicle and personnel reinforce U.S. Embassy security just outside a gate to the building, surrounded in barbed wire, in Manama, Bahrain.
A Bahraini armored personnel vehicle and personnel reinforce U.S. Embassy… (Hasan Jamali / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration’s unprecedented decision to close more than 20 U.S. embassies and consulates in response to intelligence information suggesting an Al Qaeda plot to attack Western interests received praise Sunday from senior Republicans in Congress, who described the threat as extremely serious.

“This is the most serious threat that I've seen in the last several years,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC’s “This Week.”

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Obama’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “an Al Qaeda branch” was behind the threats to U.S. and other Western targets.  “There is a significant threat stream, and we are reacting to it,” Dempsey said.

Officials who have received classified briefings told television interviewers that, although the intelligence has not identified specific targets for renewed terrorism, they viewed the threat as credible.

It was in response to the intelligence information that the State Department ordered closures of the diplomatic outposts in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, and issued a global alert for Americans traveling from Sunday through Aug. 31.

"The administration’s call to close these embassies was actually a very smart call," Rep. Michael T. McCaul (R-Texas) chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CBS’ "Face the Nation." 

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, noted his own past reservations with Obama’s foreign policy decisions. But in this instance, King said on ABC’s "This Week," "What they are doing now has to be done." 

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, (R-S.C.) another frequent critic of the administration, also voiced praise.  

“I appreciate what the administration is doing with this," said Graham, who has targeted the administration's handling of the Sept. 12, 2012, attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.  

Graham told CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday that he approved of Obama's response to the latest threats:  "The administration is doing this right."  

Appearing later on the same program, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he believed  “we’re taking the precautions we should.’’

But Schiff differed with some officials who have credited unspecified intelligence-gathering by the National Security Administration with yielding information that prompted the closure of diplomatic facilities. Schiff noted that there is no basis to say that the closures are based on the NSA’s collection of records of phone calls, emails or other communications conducted within the United States.

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