"Not the regular chitchat." That's how the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, described the latest intercepted electronic communications among senior operatives of al-Qaida.

The U.S. State Department issued a global travel warning to Americans on Friday about the threat of an al-Qaida attack and closed 21 embassies and consulates in the Muslim world for the weekend. The potential for terrorism appears to be most acute in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly the Arabian Peninsula.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: "There is a significant threat stream and we're reacting to it." He told ABC News in an interview that this threat is "more specific" than previous ones and "the intent is to attack Western, not just U.S. interests."

However, all emergency management agencies stateside have been informed. Colonel Mike Edmonson, the head of Louisiana State Police, says he has been briefed by the FBI and Federal Homeland Security officials, and he's been assured there is no indication of any threat to Louisiana. Edmonson says state police will monitor the situation, and he encourages the public to report any suspicious activity.

The State Department alert urges American travelers to take extra precautions overseas, especially on transportation systems. It also reminds them to sign up for State Department alerts and register with U.S. consulates in the countries they visit.

The alert expires on August 31st.