Napolitano Plays Down Terror Color Codes

Thursday, 26 Mar 2009 01:54 PM

By Rick Pedraza

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U.S. Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano reportedly may alter or do away with the color-coded threat alert system put in place after the terror attacks of 9/11, the New York Daily News reports.

Located on the home page of the DHS Web site, the advisory scale is used to warn the public and media of potential terror activity. It affects the threat level of security at airports and other public places.

The system was created, implemented and managed by the U.S. Attorney General until 2003, then handed over to the Department of Homeland Security.

In an MSNBC News interview Tuesday, however, Napolitano said the current color-coded alert system DHS has in place is of “marginal utility. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them.”

Napolitano said the color-coded chart, which has been widely criticized for being too vague to help the public understand what kind of threat it faces, does little good advising the public of terrorist activity. She reportedly may create another system, or get rid of the alerts altogether, The New York Times reports.

Just last week, Napolitano set a new tone from her predecessors at the DHS, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, by avoiding the terms "terrorism" and "9/11" in her first address to the House Homeland Security Committee since taking office.

Napolitano, the Associated Press reports, is the first homeland security secretary to drop the term "terror" and "vulnerability" from remarks to the House Homeland Security Committee.

An AP analysis of Napolitano’s testimony also shows her using the word "attacks" less than her predecessors, instead preferring to talk about Gulf Coast recovery from hurricanes and disasters, information sharing, and immigration and border security programs.

DHS spokesman Sean Smith said the absence of the word "terrorism" from her prepared testimony is not deliberate, despite criticism that any testimony on homeland security should be centered on the threat of terrorism and what is being done to combat it.

"Next time we'll send Cliffs Notes over with the testimony," Smith tells AP. "Anyone who doesn't understand that she's talking about terrorism when she says her mission is to protect the American people from threats both foreign and domestic clearly needs a study guide."

Napolitano’s departure from color-coded alert systems and terror talk, however, may be more indicative of a culture change within the Obama administration.

On Tuesday, Obama ordered all Pentagon staffers and administration personnel to end use of the Bush administration’s phrase “War on Terror” and replace it with the phrase “Overseas Contingency Operation,” the Washington Post reports.

Also out is the term “Long War.”

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