'This Week': Threat Fallout

Michael Chertoff and Jeffery Goldberg on the impact of the latest terror warnings.
4:27 | 08/04/13

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Transcript for 'This Week': Threat Fallout
I want to start with you, secretary chertoff. Really alarming details this morning. Seems a very credible threat but not a specific target. Operatives in place at least in one place, that's believed to be yemen, but here at home, these beefed up security measures, what do you make of all this? Why at home? Well, first let me observe, as congressman ruppersberger did, that apparently the collection of this warning information came from the kinds of programs we've been discussing about, the ability to capture communications overseas. Now, that gives you very credible information. It's believable because you're hearing the bad guys themselves talking about doing something. The challenge is it's not specific. They haven't yet talked about a particular target or a particular location, and that's why you have a broad warning but one that's taken quite seriously. But it reminds me of those color-coded days. That everybody gets used to it, so is this going to be the new normal once again? Are we going to have vague threats for the homeland, indeed, and undertake these measures all the time? Well, it's actually quite rare to have this broad and yet so alarming and specific warning be publicly disseminated. What's going to happen now, though, is they're going to follow all the leads to see if there's any way to connect people here in the u.S. To some of the bad guys overseas and, by the way -- specific bad guys. Jeffrey, what does it mean overseas when we close all of these embassies? I mean the one thing that i notice is, they trumped the ambassadors on this. That's sort of a call-back to benghazi and ambassador chris stevens. They didn't care what the ambassador said. We're closing down these embassies. What does that do to diplomacy? Right, well, we're in a probe benghazi environment, so they're going to be hyper caution now. What it does is, I mean this is very problematic. You're telling 21 countries, you know, we want them to believe that we're a powerful country, an open country, a free country, and we're preemptively closing our embassies because of a somewhat vague threat. It does signal that al qaeda is very effective at scaring us, and that's not necessarily a very good message for our allies in that region to hear. What do you take -- what do you make of the fact that the terrorists clearly broke operational security as it's called. They were talking on cell phones or who knows what they were talking on. Could this all be a ruse? I mean, it's always possible, but the reality is nobody is able to maintain 100% operational security all the time, and this does happen. They do make mistakes, and the ability to seize on those mistakes and get warnings is what all of this big intelligence apparatus is really about. This al qaeda splintered just as dangerous today as having a core al qaeda? In many way it's more dangerous. Now we have 2.0 or 3.0 which is widely dispersed, a younger generation coming up with new ideas, not necessarily repeating what they have done in the past and see them from west africa into south asia and so there's a much broader battlefield. Jeffrey, I was going to say the same thing. The whole region, look at the whole region and this threat. Right, well, you know, this is what's interesting is that we might actually be in a more dangerous phase with al qaeda. Most of the al qaeda affiliates are al qaeda leaning groups have not formally targeted the united states. They're busy in syria. They're busy in iraq. Doesn't mean they're not going to. The focus right now is this yemen affiliate. Is siri, he is the number one target. Which everybody by acclimation agrees is the most sophisticated bombmaker who is a specialist in that cartridge bomb, underwear bombs. These surgically implanted bombs and so he is the number one target. He is what the fear is about and I wouldn't be surprised if his name emerges in the coming days as the guy who we're most worried about in this particular set of circumstances. And the idea that it's so much more dangerous now in so many ways. That's because we really don't -- we can't track all these people. I think we had three drone strikes in yemen just this week. We're still hitting pakistan, but if they splintered, they really are harder to track, correct? And that's why you see operations really in very many parts of the world because we now have to track more people and we have to incapacitate them and, unfortunately, this problem is not going to go away. Thanks very much. Thanks to both of you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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