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.

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.