Homeland Security seeks to “simplify” color warning system

September 18, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More

Two weeks ago I briefly pointed out that Janet Napolitano, Secretary for Homeland Security, said that she wanted to reduce the level of fear in this country through improving preparedness for a terrorist attack.  Now Homeland Security is seeking to do away with any pretense that we will ever be safe.  Their latest proposal is to improve the “public credibility” of the system by”simplifying” the color scheme.  If the recommendations are adopted, the new color scheme would consist only of yellow, orange, and red. Or, as Wendy McElroy put it, “the new levels are 1. Be Afraid, 2. Be Very Afraid, 3. Panic!”

Homeland Security Advisory System color chart- Via Wikipedia

Homeland Security Advisory System color chart- Via Wikipedia

While I’m heartened that they at least admit that it’s “institutionally difficult” to lower the threat level, I still don’t believe that the color scheme is an ideal solution.  Keeping one’s citizens in a constant state of fear that they will be attacked is, I believe, one way for the government to keep the public’s attention diverted from the causes of terrorist attacks– namely, our governments policies. If we were to stop killing innocent civilians around the world, we may just find that people around the world no longer wish to kill us in retaliation.

The new color scale is also an attempt to limit the politicization potential of the threat level.  Wired explains:

…Tom Ridge, the former Homeland Security secretary, wrote in a new book, the Test of Our Times, that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft unsuccessfully lobbied him to raise the threat level days before the 2004 elections, in a bid to seal President George W. Bush’s re-election.

“Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld,” Ridge writes. “There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’”

You can view the whole report here.

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is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

Comments (3)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    The color-coded warning system is pure propaganda, invented by the Bush Administration for self-serving political goals. The notion that a handful of colors can meaningfully (much less accurately) portray the level of public safety across a country the size of the U.S. is simply ridiculous.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Grumpy: I think you're onto something big. If they really knew anything meaningful, wouldn't they know more than the mere "level of danger?" Sometimes, it might be an east coast threat, for example.

      We already know that these warnings have been manipulated (by the Bush Administration) for political purposes. It might just be too tempting to keep such a system in place for the reasons stated in this excellent BBC documentary: The Power of Nightmares.

  2. Erika Price says:

    The whole ranking is rigged in a way that makes anything short of "elevated" impossible to invoke. Can you imagine the message it would send to our enemies, neocons might say, to broadcast a threat level of blue or green? To say that we are "low" on threat practically begs for an attack, right?

    Better to stay always "elevated" at the very least. Those who don't follow the threat level religiously will occasionally notice that we are on "elevated" and feel a pang of concern. Whenever a slight circumstance or political whim pushes us into a higher level, the media will jump on it and the average individual will quake in their shoes. Never mind that "elevated" is essentially the baseline and the whole thing is hopelessly skewed, vague and manipulated for political gain.

    It's an ingenious little political tool, isn't it?

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