Capitol Unit Calls Terror Alert System Too Vague

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A new congressional report concludes that the government’s color-coded terrorist alert system is so vague in detailing threats that the public “may begin to question the authenticity” of the threats and take no action when the level is raised, the New York Times says.

The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan branch of the Library of Congress, offered lawmakers options for replacing or overhauling the system, including the possibility of replacing the five-color system with “general warnings concerning the threat of terrorist attacks.”

While the report does not recommend that the alert system, called the Homeland Security Advisory System, be scrapped, its catalog of existing criticism will probably be seized on by lawmakers who argue that the system needlessly confuses and alarms the public. The report cited criticism that “when federal officials announce a new warning about terrorist attacks, the threats are too vague.”

The Homeland Security Department has acknowledged that the system, which began in March 2002, needs adjustment. In June, Tom Ridge, the department secretary, said his agency would try to create a procedure allowing for alert levels to be raised or lowered for specific regions or industries, rather than for the whole country.


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