Sage, Ink: The Art of Homeland Security

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced changes to its terror alert system, adding a new category of general “bulletins” to its existing program of specific “alerts.”

How helpful Americans will find it remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely to be considered more confusing than the old color-calibrated system, which was discontinued in November 2010. The cartoon below ran in 2002, when the then-new color alert system got its first adjustment to orange from yellow.