Americans should prepare for more confusion, uncertainty, and cynicism as the government continues to learn how to balance its need to raise alarms about a possible terrorist attack without revealing classified information or compromising sources, says the Washington Post. Homeland security officials long ago lost the ability to simply ask for the public’s trust when they suddenly announce new security measures based on intelligence they cannot release, said retired Col. Randall Larsen, a top homeland security consultant to government and the private sector. “we’re all going to have to live with some of the same ambiguity that war fighters deal with,” Larsen said. “Often, things aren’t going to be clear to us.”
Some government officials acknowledged that they could have avoided much public skepticism if they had said Sunday, when Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge first raised the terrorism threat level for three cities’ financial sectors to orange, or “high risk” of attack, that almost all the documents the CIA recovered were at least three years old. A senior U.S. intelligence official acknowledged exasperation at the skepticism expressed by some members of the public when they learned the age of the surveillance files. “We were doing what we thought was our job, to uphold our sworn duty to protect people [by releasing the information], and now we’re being criticized for doing it,” the official said. “The detail and specificity of the [computer] reports was so striking and dramatic that we felt we had no choice” but to warn officials and the public in Washington, New York, and Newark.