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The United States has closed more than twenty diplomatic posts across the Middle East and Africa amid threats of an al Qaeda attack. The Germans and the British have also temporarily closed down their embassies in Yemen and evacuated staff. US citizens have been warned to leave the country immediately.

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The embassy shutdowns have reportedly been triggered by the interception of a message between senior al Qaeda figures detailing plans of a major terror attack.

In 2001, there was considerable chatter in Islamist circles ahead of the September 11 attacks, but the intelligence warnings were not heeded. The US administration is determined not to repeat this mistake.

Has al Qaeda got Washington running scared with empty threats? The terror network may have been written off by some. But how strong is it really? Is al Qaeda profiting from the situation in Egypt? Is the ousting of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood working in its favor?

Or is the terror threat an attempt by the Americans to distract from the NSA scandal -- a means of justifying the existence of the US intelligence agencies' extensive surveillance programs?

Tell us what you think: Al Qaeda - Spent Force or Global Threat?