The threat of terrorism will keep at least 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in North Africa and the Middle East closed through Aug. 10. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was part of the bipartisan group briefed by Vice President Joe Biden is Washington, and says this is not a publicity stunt by the National Security Agency or any other government entity. “This is very serious,” Durbin said. “The information’s that come in is scary.”
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Some members of Congress are crediting the NSA’s controversial phone surveillance with revealing the potential plot. Last week, Durbin helped pass a defense spending bill through committee that would demand great transparency from that program. While embassies are being closed from Africa’s western coast to as far east as Bangladesh, Durbin confirmed that the threat is originating from the Arabian Peninsula.
“It is a terrorist threat coming from the Yemen area, involving al-Qaeda,” Durbin said, adding that more embassies could be temporarily shuttered. The State Department says the extension of the closings through Saturday is not in response to any new threat. The department also issued a global travel alert that lasts until Aug. 31.