WASHINGTON – The United States is planning to replace its color-coded terror alert system drafted in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks with detailed threat advisories, media reported Thursday.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has drafted a proposal sent to the White House to end its five-colored system -- mocked by critics as a relic of post-9/11 frenzy that caused alarm without explaining the reasons for the alerts.
Instead, it will provide more clarity and guidance in specific alerts, according to the reports.
"The goal is to replace a system that communicates nothing with a system that communicates precise, actionable information based on the latest intelligence," a senior Homeland Security official told The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Under the existing system, which George W. Bush put in place in 2002, a band of colors ranked the risk of a terror attack, from the lowest level green to blue (guarded risk), yellow (significant), orange (high) and red (severe).
The threat level mostly hovered around the yellow and orange range, never dipping to green or blue. It only reached red once, on August 10, 2006, amid a disrupted Al-Qaeda plot targeting transatlantic flights.
In a sign of just how obsolete it has become, officials told the Post the color has not changed since 2006, remaining orange.
Other agencies, including the Justice Department, are reviewing the new recommendations, the Post said. US officials told the newspaper that the new system would assume heightened public awareness and revolve around two broad threat categories: elevated and imminent.
Imminent threat categories would be in place for not more than a week at a time and, whenever possible, would be supplied with information on the type of threat at hand.
In hinting at how the new system may operate, the officials also pointed to warnings such as a travel alert the State Department issued last month warning US citizens of possible terror attacks in Europe.
Although the alert did not urge travelers to cancel their plans, it cited fresh intelligence that Al-Qaeda was plotting to attack public transportation systems and other attacks.
The new system "could come in the form of a DHS-FBI bulletin to local law enforcement, a briefing to cargo carriers" or a statement from public officials "to residents of a particular metropolitan area," a Homeland Security official told the Post.
© AFP 2013