Napolitano: recommendations split on threat color system

October 19, 2009

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she is reviewing recommendations on the color-coded threat alert system and experts are evenly split over its usefulness.

She said the committee of experts that made the recommendations to her were “equally divided, 50-50″ on whether the color-coded threat alert system developed after the Sept. 11 attacks was useful. It currently stands at “yellow” for elevated.

One recommendation the experts gave her is when the code becomes elevated, after a certain number of days it ought to automatically revert back to the lower level unless a decision is made to intentionally leave it higher.

“The problem is once you raise the level it is virtually impossible to reduce it for a number of political and public affairs reasons. So there would be an automatic revert once it were raised after a certain number of days,” she said at a Reuters Washington Summit. “I think that kind of recommendation makes a lot of sense.”

Any decision could impact airlines, and Napolitano said the Department of Transportation and other agencies would have their say after she makes her recommendation.

“I have a first go at it and I’m looking at it right now,” she said. “I would hope to finish my process by no later than the end of next week.”

“Late night comedians aside, you can really argue color codes a lot of different ways, a lot of countries use them. The problem is a color code, or a number, or whatever, without information to people as to what it means, and what they’re supposed to do, that’s really where the frustration is,” Napolitano said.

“The code itself, absent a connection with real information, doesn’t have much utility,” she said.

For more news from the Reuters Washington Summit, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Napolitano at Reuters Washington Summit)

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While we understand that our leaders need a system of communication, we contest any experiment on the civilian population. We simply have no use for the color codes other than as an object of our fears. These unspecified threats create fear, whiling giving us no information whatsoever.

In the name of peace, 40 artists in the USA and Canada have joined to create an artwork called ‘Home Automation’, over a 4 year period. The project is a parody of the color code threat alert system that features a performance of a lifesize metal animatronic crash test dummy family. The family self destructs as they watch government threat alerts on their home TV, and their mechanical fear and paranoia.

Please check out our art at

To truly love, we must be completely free. If we strive to be free, true love and liberty will follow.

David Karave

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