The State Department Travel Alert: What It Means

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Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg Contributing Editor Richard Falkenrath explains the worldwide travel alert issued today by the U.S. State Department warning citizens of potential terror attacks by al-Qaeda in the Middle East and North Africa. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's "Market Makers."

Makers." the u.s. state department has issued a new worldwide alert to u.s. citizens, warning of potential terrorist attacks, especially in the middle east and north africa.

The alert specifically names al qaeda as a potential threat , a potential source of terrorist attacks.

We want to bring in our collie, richard falkenrath.

He's a former deputy commissioner in charge of counterterrorism with the new york city police department and was the top national security aide to george w. bush.

He is a rentable at the chertoff group and a contributor to bloomberg television.

Richard, what kind of information is the state department working with such that it would feel the need to issue an alert like this?

They did not tell us what the underlying information is, but there is usually to possible sources.

The first is an electronic intercept of a communication between al qaeda cells that indicates either final planning for an attack or the initiation of an attack or a plot grade the second is a human agent on the inside that reports out and says there's a plot underway.

Actions like this are very unusual because in part the first priority of the government is to stop the plot before it happens.

Once it does this, take a highly visible worldwide action, the plotters will note that the government has a source on the inside.

Yesterday, the state department issued a release at some of the embassies in question will be close on sunday.

They have escalated that to a worldwide travel alert three and what would have happened in the last 24 hours for them to make it much more serious?

Maybe they have an indication the closing of the embassies caused the plotters to change their target and they have an attack in place but now they know they can't get to and embassy or counsel but they can't go to the at -- so they will go for american travelers.

If they take actions to protect their own people, there are questions why they are not doing the same for american citizens traveling abroad.

Why do you think the embassy may be at risk and you need to protect the employees of those facilities rather than everyone else who is traveling around the world for tourism or business?

Ask how seriously should people , should businesses take an alert like this?

How often are they issued?

A worldwide travel alert is not at all common.

They're routinely issued for certain parts of the world, like libya or iraqi, yemen.

They have a permanent travel advisory in place.

Worldwide ones are quite unusual.

Does the fact that it is worldwide suggest the information the government is working with isn't as specific as we might like?

Right.

That's exactly right area the government doesn't like to do these in part because they are not really actionable.

What is a businessperson traveling or someone who has long tourism plans supposed to do if they are headed to norway, a place where there are no -- these things are not popular inside the government for the people who receive them.

The more specific it is, the better.

But this is not a step taken lightly by the government and the number of alerts that have been issued is -- have risen steadily since 9/11. are they going to try to prevent any attack or just try to keep people out of the way?

Both.

To prepare for the consequences of an attack that happens.

The government will be in a position to say we did issue an advisory.

There is no way to protect every american citizen traveling abroad at any one time.

If there is an event and the government has information that might be about a threat to that person, if they kept it secret, it often does not go well.

How our airlines responding to this right now?

They're not typically in charge of their own security.

It's usually taken care of by airport operators who are likely to heighten the screening protocol.

You are likely to see longer lines.

I have not seen reports of cancellations of flights, but longer lines at security checkpoints are certain in this type of situation.

Richard, thank you for making yourself available on such short notice.

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.

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