Color-Coded Threat Levels Being Chucked

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Installed shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks and perplexing Americans ever since, the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded threat system is to be discontinued in April. Its replacement? "DHS will move to a system that focuses on specific threats in geographical areas. It will be called the National Terror Advisory System," reports CNN staff, noting that the Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano will make the official announcement on Thursday in a speech. To take the pulse of the early reaction to news--few will miss vague alerts like "Code Orange."

  • 'The End of a Not-Very-Well-Executed Idea'  Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis won't miss a system that never worked quite the way it should. "Considering that the alert level has never been lower than 'Elevated' (and in New York City it's been on 'High' the whole time), and that there haven't been any changes made since 2006 despite additional attacks and threats of attacks since then, it's pretty clear that this was never more than a public relations stunt," he writes. "Good riddance."
  • It Just Taught Americans to Be Scared, Not Prepared, says the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, in a statement posted by The Hill. "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. ... I have raised concerns for years about the effectiveness of the system and have cited the need for improvements and transparency," he writes. "Many in Congress felt the system was being used as a political scare tactic--raising and lowering the threat levels when it best suited the Bush Administration."
  • 'Maybe the Government Has Finally Realized the Silliness,' wonders Wired's David Kravets, "of the oft-spoofed five-color threat-level advisory to which nobody paid attention?" He includes a humorous collection of spoof images in his article, and notes the dubious value of the system: "Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, wrote in a 2009 book, The Test of Our Times, that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft unsuccessfully lobbied him to raise the threat level days before the 2004 elections, in a bid to seal President George W. Bush's re-election."
  • 'Color Me Vague,' writes Jon Bauer at The Daily Herald. "I am an apprehensive yellow: The U.S. Homeland Security Department is expected to announce today an end to its color-coded terrorism warning system, which assigns one of five colors for various threat levels. The system was long criticized as being too vague." A quip: "The new system will attempt to be more specific by using all 64 colors in the box of crayons."
  • R.I.P. 'Terror Alert Layered Quadrilateral Almost-Rainbow' writes Village Voice blogger, Jen Doll. "Instead of letting yellow shine through the U.S. like a beacon of light declaring our elevated threat level status, Homeland Security has decided, after a year of review, that they're [ITAL] just going to tell us about it," she observes. "Which is good, because yellow simply made us think of SpongeBob, or a nice icy lemon granita, anyway."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.