It's a strategy as old as politics itself - whenever you get caught up in a shitstorm of bad publicity over a policy, go with the old misdirection play.
Past presidents have launched mini-wars (see Reagan with Grenada) or military assaults (Clinton in Sudan) to distract the public's attention from economic woes. The Bush II administration would play games with changing the alert colors anytime there was criticism of the excesses of the Patriot Act.
And so, with the Obama administration under assault from the left and the right over the NSA's domestic surveillance programs, it was high time to get the public looking somewhere else. Thus we have the big dramatic announcement that embassies in the Middle East and northern Africa are being closed down due to some vague terrorist threat that we only know about because the NSA has been listening in on everyone's phone calls and reading everyone's e-mails.
In the end there will be no terrorist attack. We will be told that the plot was foiled because of intelligence our government obtained as a result of policies that both invade our privacy and violate our civil liberties. There will be no way to verify the claims.
Those folks who dutifully follow the little bouncing ball will lose sight of our dwindling reasonable expectations of privacy and will be thankful that our government is looking out for us - even if it means we are less free today than yesterday.