homeland security alerts
June 4, 2003 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Arizona may ignore the next Homeland Security Orange Alert "It creates incredible problems: overtime, financial, functional," said Frank Navarrete, the state's homeland security director. "It's not quite to the point where it creates havoc, but it's quite disruptive."
posted by thedailygrowl (22 comments total)
arizona probably doesn't have crazy much to worry about. i don't think terrorists could reasonably target the grand canyon.

doesn't arizona also ignore daylight savings? didn't they once try to ignore mlk's birthday?
posted by donkeyschlong at 10:38 AM on June 4, 2003

posted by ook at 10:40 AM on June 4, 2003

The alert system is a great way to keep us hostage. Whenever the purse strings get too tight on the defense budget, we bump up the pretend war a little more.
posted by basilwhite at 10:43 AM on June 4, 2003

You can't really blame them. It would be hard to pick a less suitable target for terrorists than Arizona: low population density (translated: sprawl), entirely dependent on water pumped directly out of wells (except for the insane C.A.P. canal whose water requires so much treatment that poisoning it would probably improve it), essentially no great public works or even large buildings to speak of.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:19 AM on June 4, 2003

essentially no great public works

Hoover Dam? Or is that a federal responsibility?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:29 AM on June 4, 2003

This is not new news. I heard a couple months ago about other states (I recall Utah as one of them) ignoring the federal recommendations for the same reason. Too lazy to find links.
posted by tippiedog at 11:48 AM on June 4, 2003

Hawaii has yet to go above code yellow, since it would "unnecessarily scare people". Probably more for marketing reasons than anything else...
posted by phatboy at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2003

Hawaii, where it's always Yellow.
posted by xmutex at 12:56 PM on June 4, 2003

Hey, Arizona has lots of dams as part of the Salt River Project and elsewhere. I think that the thing that most people worry about is the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant.

But George Spiggot is right, things just aren't placed that close together out here. I am sure that terrorists could do a lot of harm if they targeted downtown phoenix, or tempe or somewhere that lots of people congregated, but chances are there are other states where they could find more people closer together.

That being said, I don't know that this decision has so much to do with lack of likely targets as it does with cost and not wanting to jerk the public around more than necessary.

Also, we have entered the season known as "please God, let the sun go down" so you can keep your daylight savings. If I could send you some of our daylight, I would.
posted by eckeric at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2003

here in arizona we will ignore all mandates, prohibitions, directives, and instruction that are not handed down directly from the emperor of ice cream. let be be finale of seem, the only emperor is the emperor of icecream.
posted by mokujin at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2003

Well, things aren't spread out in Hawaii. And we have, you know, a few significant targets (most part of a substantial U.S. military presence). Oh, yeah, and we get a lot of shipping and travel traffic of foreign origin...

But not only would Orange be expensive, it would (as phatboy noted) turn off the tourists! We can't have that...

Indeed, every chance our governor has, she uses words to the effect of, "Hawaii is a very safe destination." (As she did on national TV not two days before rumors surfaced of an Al Qaeda plot against Pearl Harbor.) I feel like knocking on wood every time.

Now personally, I think the color/risk system is a little silly (looks to me like a traffic light system for the terrorists, if anything). But the reasons cited when Hawaii didn't escalate the last handful of times the feds did are iffy to me.

I'm glad, at least, that each time the state decides not to follow suit, it makes the front page. (What can I say, the entire state is a small town.) The governor is taking a gamble, and it could be a safe one, but if not, I want it on the record.
posted by pzarquon at 1:43 PM on June 4, 2003

I've been ignoring them since day one...
posted by zekinskia at 1:49 PM on June 4, 2003

I don't care if they ratchet the alert up to Hot Throbbing Spicy Red, if someone wants to do I/P type terrorism in the U.S. -- blowing themselves up on a crowded bus, tossing a grenade into a crowded nightclub, driving a truckbomb into a hotel lobby -- they would not be significantly hindered. Terrorism just ain't that hard, from what I can see. And what percentage of our anti-terror funding is directed at preventing 9/11 type adventures -- the LEAST probable future point of attack?

Of course, rounding up 600 foreigners and holding all but one indefinitely without cause or charge is probably doing at least some damage to terror planning, as well as to the U.S. Constitution. So that's something.
posted by luser at 2:04 PM on June 4, 2003

I don't think you could blame anybody for ignoring the terror alerts. They're designed more to maintain a heightened sense of paranoia among the populace than to prevent actual terror. If a heightened terror alert causes you (as the local, state or federal government) to survey your domain and realize that extra precautions are needed around some infrastructure then it's your responsibility to shore it up. That might be some extra police, troops or precautions. Whatever the remedy is, it shouldn't go away when the terror alert drops. So basically the terror alert yo-yo should already have resulted in any real increases in security.
posted by substrate at 2:05 PM on June 4, 2003

if someone wants to do I/P type terrorism in the U.S. -- blowing themselves up on a crowded bus, tossing a grenade into a crowded nightclub, driving a truckbomb into a hotel lobby -- they would not be significantly hindered

Very true. And as someone who takes the train every weekday, it would be awfully difficult to get on the morning after the first "I/P style" attack in the States.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:27 PM on June 4, 2003

I wonder if the real terrorists are creating just enough disinformation about possible attacks and targets to make this whole alert system backfire. I can just imagine them using the system to signal an attack--next time it goes from orange to yellow, for example.
posted by newlydead at 2:40 PM on June 4, 2003

One other thing: considering the ailing state of many state budgets, with no scheduled relief in sight (aside from terror-related costs -- presumably that $28 million kitty), is this the first sign from the state treasurers that they're, at long last, resisting the unilateral card game?

New suggested slogan for the Democrats in 2004: "We put the 'States' in 'United States.'"

One other question about Orange Alert: where do whack jobs like Eric Rudolph and Timoithy McVeigh fit in? We're not calling them terrorists.
posted by ed at 2:50 PM on June 4, 2003

The sad fact is that if a terrorist determined enough to kill people in the United States, he can probably do so no matter what we do. The best defense therefore, is to prevent their entry into the United States, either through tougher immigration scruitiny and surveillance of suspects in the United States, or by attacking the terrorists (i.e. the Afganistan war) overseas where they train and plan their attacks. Of course, then the same people who whine and complain about the alleged uselessness of the warning system will whine and complain about the patriot act, alien detentions and so-called "racist and imperialist wars."

So what should we do? Elect Howard Dean or John Kerry? Pulleeese....how is that going to change anything?
posted by Durwood at 2:56 PM on June 4, 2003

I wonder if the real terrorists are creating just enough disinformation about possible attacks and targets to make this whole alert system backfire.

Heh. It has to work in the first place to backfire.

The Red Cross has recommendations for citizens about what they are supposed to do at the different threat levels. On reading them, one is struck by how mundane these recommendations are. A lot of them are things that emergency management people have been recommending for years, just shoehorned into a coded alert system.

I mean, look at how arbitrary some of them are. Why is "Check telephone numbers and e-mail addresses in your personal communication plan and update as necessary" at level Yellow? Isn't it always a good idea to have current contact info? What about "Exercise caution when traveling." Why is this at level Orange? Does this mean at levels Yellow and below you can just throw caution to the wind, accept candy from strangers, and run around with money hanging out of your pocket?

You'll also note that the lists are somewhat padded, with lots of repetition. "Be alert to suspicious activity and report it to proper authorities." is repeated from level on Blue on up, but so is "Complete recommended actions at lower level." Does this mean at Orange we should be "extra extra alert to suspicious activity?"

Besides all of that, the scale itself is not useful. If you never go below Yellow (which seems unlikely as long as the nebulous and probably unending War on Terrorâ„¢ continues), then there is no point to having a Green and a Blue level. If you are at Red, then it's likely that an attack has already occured or is ongoing, and you don't need a color code to describe that. So we are left with Yellow and Orange, and frankly, there is very little qualitative difference between the two (for us citizens, anyhow). They basically boil down to the equivalent of "check that you unplugged the iron before you go on vacation three times instead of two."
posted by moonbiter at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2003

Oh damn, the iron..!
posted by newlydead at 3:43 PM on June 4, 2003

1) It is too freakin' *hot* in AZ to do terrorism. But at least it's a "dry" terrorism.
2) They used to make freakin' black helicopters in Mesa, AZ. They be bad.
3) Phoenix had a big freakin' UFO hover over it for several hours and they still said, "Nope. No UFO here. Shut up."
4) People in AZ are dangerously crazy *and* apathetic. And no, I'm not going to explain that.
5) A few kooks tried to blow up a power tower going to Palo Verde Nuclear plant a dozen or so years ago. The nearby desert looked like a "Dead Lot" because of all the FBI vehicles waiting for them.
6) *We* have vigilantes. And *you* don't. Makes all the difference in the world. No gun control eitherneither.
7) Timothy McVeigh lived here. See #4 above.
8) The food is *a lot* better than what they have in New Mexico. Terrorism !No!, Enchiladas !Si!
posted by kablam at 5:43 PM on June 4, 2003

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