"All the focus on airline security, obviously, it's a big deal but al Qaeda has capabilities to do other things -- how about trains, how about buses," Woodward said. "The administration has to worry about being like the generals fighting the last war, you can't fight the last terrorist attack it could come anywhere, any place."
White House Officials have aggressively pushed back against criticism that the administration is not focused on al Qaeda, pointing to how much more attention and resources they have sent to places such as Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan than the prior administration.
"Throughout this year, the president has urged greater focus on and investment in the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and on support for the government of Yemen and other regional partners' efforts against those extremists," a senior administration official said.
"To keep the pressure on al Qaeda Central in Pakistan, we have also increased the pressure on its affiliates in Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. That is why the president dispatched his counter terrorism advisor and the Commander of CENTCOM to Yemen earlier this year, and it is why we are increasing our investments in and training of Yemeni forces to counter al Qaeda and its murderous agenda.
"These efforts have already yielded important successes in disrupting al Qaeda efforts and plotting in Yemen. Our actions have made clear that we are determined to seek out and destroy al Qaeda wherever it might hide."
U.S. officials met with Saudi and Yemeni authorities this past weekend to discuss the threat of al Qaeda and the separatist movements in the country.
Even U.S. Gen. David Petraeus visited Yemen this weekend to meet President Ali Abdullah Saleh to thank him for his efforts in fighting terrorism and pledge further U.S. support. The senior army general also visited U.S. special operations teams that are helping train Yemenis in counterterrorism.
ABC News' Richard Coolidge and Jake Tapper contributed to this report.