By Kevin Liptak
(CNN) — The decision to close a broad swath of American embassies and diplomatic posts across the Middle East in response to a terror threat was not an overreaction, President Barack Obama said Tuesday in his first remarks on the new security precautions.
The U.S. security posture throughout the Middle East, and especially in Yemen, was heightened after officials intercepted a message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to a top ally in Yemen telling him to “do something.” A worldwide travel alert was issued, along with the slate of embassy and consulate closings.
Americans can still plan vacations, Obama said Tuesday, though he stressed the importance of using caution and common sense while traveling abroad.
And he noted the likelihood of dying in a terrorist attack is still much lower than the odds of perishing in a car accident.
The president spoke on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” which was taped in California and will air later Tuesday evening. General notes about Obama’s remarks were distributed by a pool of journalists traveling with the president.
Asked about Edward Snowden, who admitted to leaking details of U.S. classified surveillance programs, Obama said he was disappointed Russia had granted asylum to the former government contractor.
Russia’s leaders, he said, have a proclivity for slipping into a Cold War mindset; Obama said essential cooperation between the two nations continues.
The president will still attend September’s Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Obama said, though the White House has said an earlier meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Obama is under review.
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