Worldwide travel alerts are rare, but this isn’t the first time in recent years that the State Department has issued one. In fact, an alert was issued around this time last year and an alert was issued in 2013. The 2013 alert was very controversial.
Here’s what you need to know.
A Worldwide Travel Alert Was Issued in December 2014
In mid-December 2014, just before Christmas, the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert after a siege in Sydney, Australia. The attack was a 17-hour deadly siege in Sydney by a “lone wolf” who declared his allegiance to ISIS. It ended with two hostages’ deaths.
The Department voiced concerns that terrorists might target hotels, shopping areas, places of worship, schools, and other places that civilian crowds tend to frequent. The concern was that attacks could happen before or during the holidays. The alert, like the current one, lasted for three months, BuzzFeed News reported. Like this alert, it didn’t mention any specific targets, just that travelers should remain alert for dangerous situations.
The warning also came after North Korea issued threats over James Franco’s movie The Interview. But the alert was not connected to that incident, News.com.au reported.
A Controversial Worldwide Alert Was Issued in 2013 Due to Al Qaeda-Related Information
The only other time a worldwide travel alert has been issued by the U.S. was in August 2013. The warning was concerned that Al Qaeda or its allies would be targeting U.S. government or civilian interests. Although that warning was global, it warned of particular dangers in the Middle East or North Africa, The New York Times reported. Like this bulletin, it didn’t advise against travel but asked Americans to be mindful of dangerous situations. Conspiracy theorists at the time thought the timing of the bulletin was meant to distract from growing concerns about the NSA’s collection of communications data on American citizens, as you can see in this Reddit thread from the time.