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Obama Administration Downplays Al Qaeda Threat After Embassy Closures

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A U.S. military official familiar with Al Qaeda operations said the administration "has a story line they want to keep intact and that was that Al Qaeda was on its heels."

A man walks past the U.S Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013. The threat of a terrorist attack led to the weekend closure of 21 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Muslim world. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In the wake of terror threats that triggered embassy closures and reports that Al Qaeda senior leadership from around the globe discussed those their plans in a conference call last week, administration officials are seemingly downplaying the veracity of the threats.

While details about the threat emerged Aug. 2 when the state department started closing embassies, President Barack Obama didn't publicly address the Al Qaeda concerns until Aug. 6, when he appeared on Jay Leno's  "Tonight Show."

"Terrorists depend on the idea that we're going to be terrorized and we're going to live our lives," Obama told Leno. "And the odds of people dying in a terrorist attack obviously are still a lot lower than in a car accident, unfortunately."

After the Al Qaeda conference call story broke, administration officials began steering news outlets, including TheBlaze, away from the story, suggesting Al Qaeda would not use those methods to deliver information.

Closed U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel A man walks past the U.S Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013. The threat of a terrorist attack led to the weekend closure of 21 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Muslim world. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) 

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Steven Bucci, who spent five years as a military adviser under former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, said it is difficult to reconcile the latest threat with the administration’s assessments on Al Qaeda.

Bucci, who is now a senior researcher fellow for defense and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, noted his think tank's  published statement on the administration's response to the embassy closures.

The White House "doesn’t acknowledge that it’s facing a global Islamist insurgency. Rather, the Administration seems preoccupied with scaling back its counterterrorism programs to “prove” that it’s winning. U.S. strategy has, in practice, helped give Al Qaeda an opportunity at a second life."

The Daily Beast learned that a global conference call headed by senior Al Qaeda leadership was intercepted by U.S. intelligence. The information obtained in that call, which included 20 Al Qaeda operatives, lead to the closures of the embassies.

Despite the fact that Al Qaeda's core leadership has been targeted by U.S., including the death of its founder Osama Bin Laden, the various franchises have not withered away. "Obviously,the continuing threats don't follow that line of reasoning," the military official said." There's no reason not to believe that Al Qaeda would use a conference call to reach out to its leadership."

Although the franchises reside in various parts of North Africa, Middle East, Yemen and South Asia, they have remained in communication with one another through phone calls, Internet accounts and even Twitter feeds. A U.S. Intelligence official told The Blaze, "terrorist threats are evolving as the global jihadist movement becomes increasingly decentralized."

The official noted that in North Africa, "the extremist landscape is a mosaic of experienced groups, rebranded militants, terrorists emerging from the shadows, and new entries."

"There’s plenty of rivalry in the small world of militant jihadists but also some limited transnational cooperation that is cause for concern,” he said.

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Front page photo credit:  AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

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