A suspected al-Qaida militant, center, gestures as he attends his trial in a state security court in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. U.N. agencies and other aid organizations appealed Tuesday for $716 million in donations to help Yemen which is wracked by militant attacks and instability deal with a deepening humanitarian crisis that includes widespread malnutrition in the Arabian peninsula's poorest country. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
The University of Florida assistant professor of political science Zachary Selden says the decision by the state department to close 19 diplomatic posts is unprecedented.
"Nothing like this as far as I know has happened anytime in the recent past so its clearly something large."
Selden says the closures sends a clear message to Al-Qaida groups that the United States is aware of any planned attacks.
"They want to try and prevent that threat from actually materializing."
We've learned officials intercepted a message between Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and his deputy in Yemen about plans for a major terror attack. Selden says intercepting messages like these are essential to United States counter-terrorism efforts.
"The first line of defense is intelligence intercepts via the NSA and things like that which are designed to pick up the so-called chatter that's out there that tells us a little bit about what is being plotted and being planned."
The diplomatic posts are set to be closed until the end of the week.
As a precaution, the New York City police have also increased security at the World Trade Center and Empire State Building. Selden says the United States will be battling against the radical ideology of Al Qaida for years to come.
"It's very clear that Al Qaida's organization has changed over time but it's not gone away. The ideology is still out there and its still very threatening."