Color-coded threat levels are just so 2001. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps because the threat level color has not changed since 2006, the Washington Post informs us that the Obama administration is considering dropping the color-coded threat levels that were the signature of the George W. Bush era. The replacement for the color-coded threats has not been fully divulged yet, so perhaps we have time to have an influence on the new system.

Here is the Post:

A proposal drafted by the Department of Homeland Security and submitted to the White House urges a shift toward more-tailored threat warnings and the dismantling of the five-color scheme that was often mocked for alarming people but providing little useful guidance on how they should respond, U.S. officials said.

“The goal is to replace a system that communicates nothing with a system that communicates precise, actionable information based on the latest intelligence to law enforcement, the private sector and the American public,” said a senior Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because deliberations are continuing.


U.S. officials said the new system would assume a baseline state of heightened public awareness and would be built around two broad threat categories: elevated and imminent. The latter would be instituted for no more than a week at a time, officials said, and would be accompanied, when possible, by specific information on the nature of the threat.

I’m all in favor of having the alerts be more specific, but I also think that more needs to be done to place the threats in context. Each time a new threat warning is issued, DHS should be required to divulge how long it is until the next election and how the party currently in power is expected to fare in that election. Further, the Pentagon should be required to provide an update on current military efforts around the globe and how both the military and the public view these actions as progressing. Finally, and most importantly, the intelligence community should be required to provide an analysis that places the threat into perspective with previous efforts by whatever group is believed to be behind the threat. Especially important here is that the public should be informed about just how successful the presumed terrorists have been in the past with similar efforts.

Take the efforts to get bombs onto airplanes and to bring those airplanes down with the bombs. We now take our shoes off before boarding planes because Richard Reid tried to take an airplane down with a shoe bomb. He failed. So why do we still take our shoes off? Now we are being Rape-Scanned and gate rape-groped because the underpants bomber tried to bring down a plane last Christmas with a bomb in his shorts. He succeeded only in dousing the impending explosion with a mini-explosion of uric acid in aqueous solution. He failed. So why are we being ogled and groped? We now have taken the ridiculous step of banning toner shipments on some routes, because some folks in Yemen tried to take down planes with toner bombs. They failed. So why do we ban toner?

For the new system, I also propose that airport security should have its own rating system for the level of alert being employed on any particular day. The levels could be zero, one or two and would describe how many fingers the TSA agent will stick into each orifice of your body.

I’m sure the creative folks here at the Lake will have additional ideas that could be incorporated into the new warning scheme.  Let’s see your suggestions in comments.