U.S. closes embassy in Yemen over Al Quaeda threats linked to Flight 253 terror plotBy Michael Saul
January 4, 2010
The Obama administration shuttered the U.S. embassy in Yemen because there's an active threat that Al Qaeda might attack the compound, the President's top counterterrorism adviser said Sunday.
"It was the prudent thing to do to shut the embassy," said John Brennan, deputy national security adviser, on ABC's "This Week."
"We're working very closely with the Yemeni authorities to address the threat that is out there," Brennan said.
"It just demonstrates that Al Qaeda is determined to carry out these attacks, and we're determined to thwart those attacks."
The embassy's closure -- along with the United Kingdom's decision to close its Yemeni embassy -- comes a day after David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in the region, paid an unannounced visit to Yemen to build support for combating terrorism.
Al Qaeda has several hundred members in Yemen, and they've "grown in strength," Brennan said.
"We're not going to take chances with the lives of our diplomats and others at the embassy," he said on Fox News Sunday. "I spoke with the ambassadors last night and again this morning to make sure we're doing everything possible to protect our diplomats there."
On Saturday, in his clearest evaluation of the forces behind the botched Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner, President Obama said Al Qaeda terrorists provided training and explosives to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of attempting to bring down the Detroit-bound plane.
Brennan said Sunday there were "lapses" and mistakes in the sharing of intelligence among government agencies about the Christmas Day bomber, but he insisted there was no "smoking gun."
"There was no single piece of intelligence, a smoking gun, if you will, that said that Mr. Abdulmutallab was going to carry out his attack against that aircraft," Brennan declared.
"What we had, looking back at it now, were a number of streams of information. ... In this one instance, the system didn't work. There were some human errors. There were some lapses. We need to strengthen it."
Brennan said the administration will continue reviewing the cases of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo and decide whether they should be sent home. Since the Christmas Day bombing attempt, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on the administration to stop sending the detainees to Yemen.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) said it’s troubling that Brennan doesn’t consider it a smoking gun that the suspect’s father, a prominent banker, told the U.S. Embassy about his son’s extremist leanings.
“That, to me, was a smoking gun,” he said.