The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is proposing to discontinue the color-coded terror alert system that became a symbol of post-9/11 jitters and the butt of late-night talk show jokes, the Associated Press reports. The 8-year-old system, with its rainbow of five colors – from green, signifying a low threat, to red, meaning severe – became a fixture in airports, government buildings, and on newscasts.
The system’s demise would not be the end of terror alerts; instead, the alerts would become more descriptive and not so colorful. In the past two years, Obama administration officials have changed security protocols without changing the color of the threat (orange currently), such as introducing new airport security measures after a terrorist tried to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner last Christmas. By scrapping the colors, President Obama would abandon a system that critics long have said was too vague to be useful and that Democrats criticized as a political scare tactic. Officials confirmed the recommendation and the draft proposal was described to the APs on condition of anonymity because other federal agencies are weighing in on the idea, and no final decision has been made.