In an effort to "determine whether there is a threat to Americans" in the U.S. homeland or abroad, the FBI is contacting Libyan nationals living in and visiting the United States, according to the FBI.

"These visitors to the United States may be able to help determine the actual threat level against Americans, and the contact will also assist them in understanding what to do in the event of incidents or threats against them," the FBI said in a statement to Fox News. "The goal is to minimize the potential for each."

One official said the effort, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, "is just the prudent thing to do” as Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi struggles to hold onto power. The official suggested visitors from other volatile countries in the Middle East could also be contacted by federal authorities.

Counterterrorism officials have privately discussed the need to prepare for a possible "exodus" to the United States of former security officials and other officials who were loyal to governments recently toppled or on the verge of collapse, the official said.

Some of those officials could feel a "sense of betrayal" or be "embittered" that the U.S. government stopped backing their governments, the official said.

In fact, counterterrorism officials from some of the countries recently besieged by unrest have been trained by the U.S. military and the FBI.

As for the FBI's recent effort aimed at Libyans, the interviews are "being conducted to assist the FBI in fulfilling its responsibilities to prevent, interdict, and investigate national security and criminal threats against the United States," the FBI said.