The rainbow-hued terrorist threat warning system devised by the Bush administration will be given the coup de grace Wednesday as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano launches the National Terrorism Alert System.
The NTAS will replace the five-stage, color-coded threat warning system with a colorless two-stage system. The Department of Homeland Security will issue an "elevated threat" advisory of possible terrorist activity, or an "imminent threat" of an impending attack based on credible information.
According to DHS, alerts will be sent to law enforcement, the private sector or the general public via official and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The alerts will include details such as maps to show the region affected by the alert. Alerts will be in effect for a specific amount of time, expire automatically, or be extended as new information emerges.
The Bush administration introduced the Homeland Security Advisory System in March 2002, a year before Congress created DHS. The system used a five-level color code to indicate the threat of terrorist attack. Officials at first set the threat level at the "Elevated" - yellow - level. It was raised to "Severe" - red - once in 2006, and five times to "High" - orange. The level was never lower than yellow.
The system soon came under criticism from law enforcement agencies. Officials complained that the warnings lacked information about the nature or location of the threat. Local police had to begin costly predetermined security protocols for threats that may have been on the other side of the country. Other critics ranged from security experts to cartoonists.
Napolitano convened an advisory panel to revise the color code in 2009, and announced the NTAS in January.
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