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Homeland Security Replacing the Color-Coded Terror Alert System

Homeland Security is finally getting around to replacing those five-step color-coded terror alerts put into place after the 9/11 attacks. According to reports, the old system will be phased out over the next 90 days:

Among the changes: Passengers will no longer hear the public-service recordings at airports announcing the alert level. The aviation threat has been on orange, or “high” alert, since 2006.

“The old color-coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson , D-Miss., the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. “Each and every time the threat level was raised, very rarely did the public know the reason, how to proceed, or for how long to be on alert.”

It’s about time the color-coded system was put to rest. It was forgivable when it was first created — there was no real precedent for a public terror-threat-warning system at the time — but it’s surprising that it was kept around for so long.

The five-tiered system gives the government an incentive to over-warn the public about terror threats — and a disincentive to lower these warnings — which is probably why the threat level has stayed frozen at “orange” (high-alert) since 2006. Keeping the terror-alert level high provides intelligence agencies with some semblance of political cover in case there happens to be a terrorist attack at any point.

And that has made it impossible for the public to know the true seriousness of the threat level. A clearer and more detailed alert system will be a welcome change.


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