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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 2nd, 2013
06:27 PM ET

Analysis: Al Qaeda in Yemen 'perfectly capable' of attacking U.S.

The U.S. government prepared to close 21 embassies and consulates in the Middle East in reaction to a potential terrorist threat that could be coming from al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen.

Former CIA operative Bob Baer said more regions could be in danger, given the terrorist group's methods of deception.

"Al Qaeda is capable of putting out disinformation over phone lines. In fact it is [standard operating procedure] for them, so I don't think we should limit this to the Middle East, and that's why the warning goes out to Europe as well, and the rest of the world," said Baer.

"It could be the United States. These guys are perfectly capable of hitting here, and yet showing signs they're going to hit elsewhere," said Baer.

The combination of closing so embassies and issuing a global travel alert for Americans is an "unprecedented" response, said CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.

"It suggests to me ... that there's been sort of a long-term threat stream, a couple of months, and then this very specific information coming from Yemen," said Kayyem.

With lessons learned from Benghazi, the U.S. is reacting with caution, said Kayyem.

There have been devastating drone strikes against al Qaeda leadership, but the recent terror plot appears to suggest that they have regrouped, and now possess capabilities they did not have a few years ago.

"We have seen that across the Arab world and North Africa, the story of the last two years has been al Qaeda regrouping, taking advantage of the Arab Spring, the political turmoil, the civil war in Syria, all the turmoil you've been seeing in Iraq to really build up its activities, recruiting more and more people in the region," said Paul Cruickshank, CNN terrorism analyst.

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