Politics

US embassies in Muslim countries to remain closed for another week

US embassies in Muslim countries to remain closed for another week

The very strange story of the great US embassy shutdown continues, as the State Department has announced that embassies in 21 Muslim countries will remain closed through at least next Saturday.  A worldwide travel alert will remain in effect until August 31.  (And then be lifted just in time for September 11?)  Interpol has also issued a global security alert, while Britain, Germany, and France have ordered two-day embassy closings in Yemen.  So far, only the United States has gone into a global “shelter in place” mode.

The State Department says the extended embassy closings are partly due to local customs surrounding “the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan,” coupled with “an abundance of caution.”  Funny, I don’t remember large-scale embassy closings and global travel alerts during previous Eid celebrations.  Of course, it was only a year ago that President Obama was loudly declaring al-Qaeda “decimated” and “on the run” as part of his re-election campaign.  Somebody’s on the run, all right, but it’s not al-Qaeda.

In fact, the current security alert is unprecedented, and it’s a direct result of the Obama Administration’s deadly incompetence in Benghazi.  “They attacked our consulate, they killed an ambassador, a year has passed, and nobody has paid a price,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on CNN this weekend.  “After Benghazi, these al-Qaeda types are really on steroids, thinking we’re weaker and they’re stronger.”

Why wouldn’t al-Qaeda be feeling its oats?  Under Obama’s “leadership,” America is in retreat and decline across the world.  Al-Qaeda is staging massive jailbreaks left and right, replenishing its ranks with seasoned fighters liberated from prison.  Russia openly makes sport of the weak President and gives NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum.  CNN conducts interviews with the Benghazi suspects that Obama can’t seem to locate, arrest, or terminate.  The Taliban is getting ready to take over Afghanistan again; they’re feeling confident enough to project power into Syria, where Obama’s empty bluster is the butt of jokes.  (Americans can only be thankful that it has been empty bluster, because if Obama followed through on his promises, we’d either be arming al-Qaeda with American weapons, or fighting alongside them against the equally hellish Syrian regime.)  The chief Benghazi cover-up artist, Susan Rice, got promoted to National Security Advisor, where she has reportedly played a lead role in the embassy shutdown.  Under Obama’s policies, the American economy has grown so weak that we’ve got to scale down our military capability to afford the luxurious lifestyle our political class has grown accustomed to.  It’s a wonder the terrorist leadership can stop laughing at Obama long enough to plan an attack.

But evidently they have been doing some planning, because the current alert is based on what Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) described on NBC’s Meet the Press as terrorist “chatter” that is “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.”  From Fox News:

Sources confirmed with Fox News the chatter was picked up over the past two weeks and exceeds anything in the past decade. They also said the extraordinary volume of chatter was preceded by months of “absolute quietness.”

The sources said the chatter 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.

A Mideast diplomat said al-Zawahiri’s “pressuring” of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to launch new terrorist attacks on American and other Western targets is “unprecedented.”

The sources also said the U.S. outpost closings and the travel alert were prompted in part by a series of recent Al Qaeda-led prison breaks that have freed hundreds of operatives over the last month, including one this weekend in Aleppo, Syria. Other recent breaks have been orchestrated in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan and Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan.

According to Rep. Peter King (R-NY) of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on terrorism, intercepted communications from terrorist leaders included some dates and boasts of “how enormous it was going to be,” but not specific locations.

Why are we shutting these embassies down and hiding our diplomatic personnel in presumably less secure locations?  (American embassies in the Middle East tend to be fortresses.  That’s the American embassy in Cairo in the image above.  The grafitti-covered concrete barrier was added by the Egyptian government after last year’s “spontaneous video protests.”)  Shouldn’t we increase security and use our international prestige to demand increased protection from the host countries?

Oh, right: Obama.  Doubtless we’ll hear bleating from Administration shills about how cruel Republican austerity leaves the State Department without funds to protect its embassies abroad.  But Barack Obama just cost the American taxpayer $12 billion with the stroke of a pen, by violating the Constitution to delay the ObamaCare employer mandate.  Somehow there’s always plenty of money to fund whatever the President really wants to do.

Concern over these terror alerts appears bipartisan, but then again, so is the debate over enhanced government surveillance.  McClatchy News looks at how the current crisis figures into the Surveillance State debate:

Congressional supporters of the program, appearing on Sunday morning talk shows, said the latest rounds of warnings of unspecified threats showed that the programs were necessary, while detractors said there was no evidence linking the programs, particularly the massive collection of cell phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans, to the vague warnings of a possible terrorist attack.

Meanwhile, there were no reports of violence or unusual activity in any of the countries where the United States had kept its embassies and consulates closed when they would have ordinarily been open on Sunday. Nevertheless, the State Department announced that embassies and consulates in 16 countries would remain closed throughout the week, including four African nations that had not been on the original list. Diplomatic posts in five other countries would reopen Monday, the State Department said, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq, where terrorist attacks have been frequent.

It seems odd to offer intercepted communications between foreign terrorist leaders as a justification for the indiscriminate collection of metadata – and more – from all American citizens..  But that’s what happened on the Sunday shows:

“Al-Qaida is on the rise in this part of the world and the NSA program is proving its worth yet again,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“This is a good indication of why they’re so important,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a leading critic of the program, took the opposing position on CNN, saying the program that has raised the most opposition in Congress, the daily collection of so-called cell phone metadata that details numbers called, the location where a call originated, and the length of a call, appears to have had nothing to do with either the closing of the U.S. diplomatic outposts or the travel advisory.

“If you look at the one that’s most at issue here, and that’s the bulk metadata program, there’s no indication, unless I’m proved wrong later, that that program, which collects vast amounts of domestic data, domestic telephony data, contributed to information about this particular plot,” he said.

It doesn’t look as if Skynet has been coughing up any specific intelligence.  We’ve issued global travel alerts and shut down a couple dozen embassies because we caught high-level leaders of the organization Barack Obama claimed he had defeated talking about a big, splashy attack and tossing around a few dates.  For that we need electronic snooping on all Americans, creating trillion-gigabyte data vaults that every federal agency is hungry to access?

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