Worldwide Caution

Last night news channels went ablaze from the State Department’s travel alert.

The State Department has intel on a serious potential Al Qaeda threat. This is more than just the heightened terrorist chatter, typical for the end of Ramadan.

There was some news coverage about the Al Qaeda affiliated group in Yemen. This threat carries the weight of al-Asiri, the bombmaker responsible for the underwear bomber and others.

The State Department said this was just a precaution, “out of an abundance of caution”.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The alert expires August 31, 2013.
  • 21 US embassies will be closed tomorrow (Sunday, August 4), primarily in the Middle East. If and when they will reopen has not been addressed.
  • This threat is against Western interests, not just American.
  • The UK is also closing it’s embassy in Yemen and is urging all it’s citizens to leave that country.
  • Register your travel plans with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Through this program the State Department can keep you informed and assist in the case of an emergency.
  • Download the Smart Traveler App by the State Department for “frequently updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more”

Despite the focus on embassies after last year’s September 11th attack at the Benghazi embassy, it is important to remember mass transportation systems and landmarks are also favorites.

The State Department has really hit the media hard with this story. This is encouraging to me. Most people with an opinion on TV say that this alert will have the secondary benefit of scaring the terrorists, letting them know we are on to them. But I think the benefit of the entire public knowing (not just the die-hard fans of the State Department’s site) could mark a new day for how we handle threats.

I think most people don’t “need” to know the specifics but appreciate being in the loop. People will keep their eyes open, and if they see something they will not just chalk it up to their imagination but take it seriously.

As a side note: The fact that they made this alert public and gave so much air time and attention to it is a good sign. From where I sit, for every sentence of information they make public, they have at least 1,000 pages worth of information they are not disclosing. So in that regard, the more they say… makes me feel slightly more at ease.

I predict this open strategy will demonstrate that the general public can be an asset, and will facilitate a better relationship with (and approval towards) the intelligence community.

Have a wonderful weekend and be safe.

Related Sites:
State Department Site
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Smart Traveler App
CBS News report