Today's status: Smokey Bear.
January 28, 2011 1:25 PM   Subscribe

A little bit of security theater will shut down in April as the Department of Homeland Security will end the color coded Homeland Security Advisory System. The terror alert has not changed from yellow in over four years, unless you are on an international flight. The system has been criticized immensely since its introduction. And don't forget the jokes.

The terror alert system was most criticized for its possible use as fear-mongering by it's well timed use near President George W. Bush's election campaigns. The alert system never dropped below a yellow "elevated" alert status. It was raised to the orange "high" status several times and once to red "severe" in regards to flights between the US and UK.

The system does not go away entirely. It will be replaced by the National Terror Advisory System which will do the following. From DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano:

"This new system is built on a clear and simple premise: when a credible threat develops that could impact the public, we will tell you and provide whatever information we can so that you know how to keep yourselves, your families and your communities safe."

Previously: 1 2 3 4 5 6
posted by Mister Fabulous (28 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had a friend in college with a somewhat nutty-republican mother who loved watching FOX News. He would always remark on how the "elevated" level was clearly developed specifically for fear-mongering, especially since FOX News would have the threat-level listed in the ticker at the bottom of the screen as "Threat-Level: Elevated" alluding to elevated being used as a verb instead of an adjective...
posted by StarmanDXE at 1:32 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still don't really understand what we'll be getting instead. I mean there's no way we're going to get a narrative, right? "We received some chatter out of our undercover operation in Kabul. Can't say much but you may want to skip that ferry you were planning on taking this weekend."
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:33 PM on January 28, 2011


The only possible way to do this correctly is to simply put out a wire saying "credible threat to NYC for the next 12 hours, stay home if possible," if that's what comes through. The fact of the matter is that those threat levels were NEVER EVER EVEN SLIGHTLY USEFUL, so it's no great loss that we won't (hopefully) be getting endless, useless updates like "maybe some terrorists are talking, we dunno what about."
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:39 PM on January 28, 2011


... just as Russia considers adding its own.
posted by jbickers at 1:40 PM on January 28, 2011


2bucksplus: I still don't really understand what we'll be getting instead.

That's the point: it means "we'll keep you updated when and how we see fit." And it makes sense - why stress on formatting when each "threat" is unique in source, target, and reliability?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:41 PM on January 28, 2011


It always seemed to be of no practical value; I mean you didn't really know how much shopping you were expected to do at any given level. Instead of meaningless colors, they needed something like: Yellow: pick up some FunYuns at 7-11; Orange: Buy a major appliance; Red: Max out the credit cards.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:45 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mister Fabulous: "The terror alert has not changed from yellow in over four years, unless you are on an international flight. "

Or live in New York, where it has been set at "Ernie" for many years.
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


It always seemed to be of political value to the Bush Administration, but of course that was just reflexive Bush hatred rearing its head... or was it?
posted by danblaker at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2011


But what of all the dashboard widgets?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is this announced months in advance? Why not just shut it down now?
posted by garlic at 2:10 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few weeks into the color-code system, I tried to find some concrete information on what to actually do for any given threat level. Because you know, obviously that was the point of the system, right? To have a quick and easy way to let us all know what we need to do to be safe. But there was nothing, no information anywhere about how the masses could actively participate in our own safety. I took that to assume that the whole thing was a security theater shenanigan.
posted by pajamazon at 2:12 PM on January 28, 2011


Can't you see?! Getting rid of this is what the terrorists want!!!
posted by dougrayrankin at 2:30 PM on January 28, 2011


On the face of it, it looks like one of those ideas that is so stupid you wonder how it made it out of the idea meeting.

The fact of the matter is, it was never intended to be of any use to the public. It was of use only to elected officials, who paraded it around to say "Look! Look! Look what we are doing! We are doing something!"

It also misled the public into thinking that the government actually had a way to assess the threat level. They don't. They didn't then, and they don't now.

It is pure security theater. It deserves all the mockery it has gotten, and then some.
posted by Xoebe at 2:30 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The fact of the matter is, it was never intended to be of any use to the public. It was of use only to elected officials, who paraded it around to say "Look! Look! Look what we are doing! We are doing something!"

It wasn't so much "Look, we are doing something!" as it was "The Democrats have some good news? Yeah, well, THE TERROR LEVEL JUST ROSE TO ORANGE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!"

It was never anything but a political weapon which was wielded by its creators.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:34 PM on January 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


BLACKWATCH PLAID!
posted by Wuggie Norple at 2:36 PM on January 28, 2011


I've just stopped by to thank Mister Fabulous for actually getting Smokey Bear's name right. That is all.
posted by hippybear at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2011


"Rose Tyler: What's the emergency?
The Doctor: It's mauve.
Rose Tyler: Mauve?
The Doctor: Universally recognised colour for danger.
Rose Tyler: What happened to red?
The Doctor: That's just humans. By everyone else's standards, red's camp. Oh, the misunderstandings! All those red alerts, all that dancing."
posted by spinifex23 at 2:58 PM on January 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I've just stopped by to thank Mister Fabulous for actually getting Smokey Bear's name right. That is all.

Remember... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires Terrorist Attacks
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:00 PM on January 28, 2011


Didn't Tom Ridge come out and openly say that the color alerts were bullshit used to distract the media when the GOP was taking a beating over whatever horrible shit of the day was going on? Why yes, yes he did.
posted by FatherDagon at 3:17 PM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Be afraid, be very, very afraid.
posted by caddis at 3:18 PM on January 28, 2011


I have a lot of issues with Obama, but I will give credit where credit is due:

This is a logical and correct decision, and it's right for the country. It also gives the lie to the idea that Democrats *can't* possibly roll back any of Bush's insanity because they will never get a vote ever again or whatever. I'm sure tea partiers will be up in arms, but my offhand guess would be at least 60% of Americans will approve of this decision.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:15 PM on January 28, 2011


how many of us went straight for the JOKES link?
posted by seawallrunner at 4:16 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


BUT I"M SCARED!!!
posted by LordSludge at 4:36 PM on January 28, 2011


I never understood why they had the colors at the bottom in the wrong order. It should go Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, Cookie Monster. (Not that it matters, it never got below Big Bird anyway.)
posted by madcaptenor at 4:53 PM on January 28, 2011


But what of the API interface?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:20 PM on January 28, 2011


I wanna be the guy who controls the threat level for March. Man I'd be oranging, yellowing, and redding it all up randomly. And then on the last day...I'd leave it as green.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:09 AM on January 29, 2011


Has the threat level ever not been elevated (or higher) since the system was introduced? I'm honestly curious - I can't remember anything below "elevated" in 10 years....
posted by jhandey at 8:05 AM on January 29, 2011


elevated
posted by zippy at 12:07 PM on January 29, 2011


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