Intercepted communication between al Qaeda leaders was one component of a broader pool of intelligence that prompted a threat alert closing numerous U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Africa, U.S. sources said.
The New York Times reported that the closure of the embassies was the result of intercepted electronic communications between Ayman al-Zawahri, who replaced Osama bin Laden as head of al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of Yemen-based affiliate al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
U.S. sources said that while some type of message between Zawahri and AQAP was intercepted recently, there were also other streams of intelligence that contributed to the security alert, which was prompted by a threat from AQAP.
U.S. officials said there was still no information about a specific target or location of a potential attack, but the threat to Western interests had not diminished.
The threat is just as serious now as it was on Friday when the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert, said Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
"It's a very serious threat," Ruppersberger told CNN. "I've seen the intelligence. It's a threat coming from the highest levels of al Qaeda. And especially focused in the Arabian peninsula, Yemen and areas like that."
-Or- there's my theory... These bad guys read the paper, realized what Snowden was saying, and is now "testing" or, better, TEASING the US to see what their response would be if they started some "chatter" out there about doing something. Sure, the US picked that phony phone call up, and thought the Arab version of the Jerky Boys was legit and then in typical American fashion, they over-reacted, just like it was scripted. Is this dangerous, you bet. Is it a smokescreen or a diversion - too soon to tell. Or has Al Qaeda reduced to making prank phone calls to piss off Uncle Sam?
Given the three high profile prison breaks in the last three weeks, I'd say that playing it safe is a better reaction than getting up to see if your refrigerator is running down the street.