U.S. officials are concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the Middle East and Arabian peninsula.
President Obama met on Saturday with his senior security team, led by National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
"The president has received frequent briefings over the last week on all aspects of the potential threat and our preparedness measures," according to a White House statement.
NPR's Dina Temple-Raston tells NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday that the closing of the embassies and consulates is the result of "an increase in ... chatter" picked up electronically and "some intercepts ... from senior officials of al-Qaida".
Dina says there's a couple of possible scenarios:
"[Either] they know something is out there, but they don't know what it is. Or, the more likely scenario is that the U.S. knows the likely target but doesn't want to give clues to ways and methods. ... So, they've provided a broader alert."
She says "there are some clues" that the threat might originate in Yemen or Iraq.
"U.S. allies have closed their embassies in Yemen and the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen is considered one of the most dangerous," she notes.
"The other possibility is Iraq," noting that the U.S. just closed another consulate there. "Al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq, which is thought to have been behind these prison breaks last month that freed hundreds of operatives is really sort of getting more muscular and it's possible they may have decided to turn to international targets."