By Frank James
In Washington, it takes a village to raise a terror alert.
Actually it was a committee, not a village. And it wasn't raising the terror alert as much as raising concerns about the parti-colored warning scale that the Homeland Security Department introduced in 2002.
The committee, which included various experts on protecting the nation were asked by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to recommend changes Tuesday to the warning system.
The most concrete change they recommended? Reduce the number of warning levels from five to three. That should be relatively easy the members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) said because the nation's new baseline should be the "guarded level," meaning you could take off the bottom (low threat) and top (severe threat) of the current levels.
Members of the HSAC suggested that this would improve the public's view of the warning system, which became the butt of jokes early in its history. How it would do this exactly is mostly left to the imagination.
They also agreed that it was important for this and future administrations to not only raise the alert level but lower it too. They tacitly criticized the practice of a past unnamed administration of being more willing to raise the alert level than lower it.
But they deadlocked on the question of whether colors should be used at all.
They also suggested that the administration could target the alerts to the threatened region or sector. That's actually something the Bush Administration started to do in 2004 after being criticized for raising the alert level nationally one time too many,
Perhaps the best part of the document produced by the task force is the history it provides of changes to the existing terror warning scale.
March 12, 2002 -- Introduction of Homeland Security Advisory System at Yellow As part of a series of initiatives to improve coordination and communication among all levels of government and the American public, President George W. Bush signed Homeland Security Presidential Directive 3, creating the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS).
Sept. 10, 2002 -- Raised from Yellow to Orange The U.S. intelligence community received information, based on debriefings of a senior al Qaeda operative, of possible terrorists attacks timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Information indicated that al-Qaeda cells were established in several South Asian countries in order to conduct car-bomb and other attacks on U.S. facilities. These cells had been accumulating explosives since approximately January 2002 in preparation for attacks.
Sept. 24, 2002 -- Lowered from Orange to Yellow Based on a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, as well as the passing of the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the disruption of potential terrorist operations in the United States and abroad, the Attorney General in consultation with the Homeland Security Council returned the threat level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack, or yellow.
2003 Feb. 7, 2003 -- Raised from Yellow to Orange Intelligence reports suggested that Al Qaida leaders emphasized planning for attacks on apartment buildings, hotels, and other soft or lightly secured targets in the United States.
Feb. 27, 2003 -- Lowered from Orange to Yellow Threat level lowered based on a careful review of how specific intelligence evolved, as well as counter-terrorism actions taken to address specific aspects of the threat situation.
March 17, 2003 -- Raised from Yellow to Orange The intelligence community believed that terrorists would attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and Coalition targets worldwide in the event of a U.S led military campaign against Saddam Hussein.
April 16, 2003 -- Lowered from Orange to Yellow Following a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, DHS, in consultation with the Homeland Security Council lowered the threat advisory level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack.
May 20, 2003 -- Raised from Yellow to Orange In the wake of terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, intelligence reports indicated that terrorists might attempt attacks against targets in the United States.
May 30, 2003 -- Lowered from Orange to Yellow Following a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, DHS, in consultation with the Homeland Security Council lowered the threat advisory level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack.
Dec. 21, 2003 -- Raised from Yellow to Orange The U.S. intelligence community received a substantial increase in the volume of threat-related intelligence reports.
Jan. 9, 2004 -- Lowered from Orange to Yellow Following a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, DHS, in consultation with the Homeland Security Council lowered the threat advisory level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack.
Aug. 1, 2004 -- Raised from Yellow to Orange, specifically for the financial services sectors in New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. Raised the threat level for the financial services sector in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Washington,D.C. as a result of new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack.
Nov. 10, 2004 -- Lowered from Orange to Yellow, for the financial services sectors in New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. State and local leaders as well as the private sector strengthened security in and around specific buildings and locations as well as throughout the financial services sector after the threat level was raised on Aug. 1, 2004. Permanent protective measures were put in place that did not exist before this date.
July 7, 2005 -- Raised from Yellow to Orange for mass transit In light of the attacks in London, the United States government raised the threat level in the mass transit portion of the transportation sector, including regional and inner city passenger rail, subways, and metropolitan bus systems.
Aug. 12, 2005 -- Lowered from Orange to Yellow for mass transit Since raising the threat level for mass transit systems on July 7, DHS worked with federal, state and local partners to develop and implement sustainable mass transit security measures tailored to the unique design of each region's transit system. In light of these increased long-term measures, the Department lowered the national threat level for the mass transit portion of the transportation sector.
Aug. 10, 2006 -- Raised from Yellow to Red for flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States; raised to Orange for all commercial aviation operating in or destined for the United States.
The U.S. government raised the nation's threat level to the highest level for commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom and bound for the United States and raised the threat level for general aviation to High to include all in-bound international flights, other than flights from Great Britain, and all flights within the United States.
Aug. 13, 2006 -- Lowered from Red to Orange for flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States; remains at Orange for all domestic and international flights. DHS lowered the aviation threat level from red to orange for flights from the United Kingdom to the United States. The U.S. threat level remains at orange for all domestic and international flights. The ban on liquids and gels in carry on baggage remains in full effect.
Something that pops out at you from the report is found in the acknowledgment section. There appears to be a trend emerging. Napolitano's immediate predecessor, Michael Chertoff, has started a consulting business called The Chertoff Group. His predecessor, Tom Ridge, has a consulting firm called Ridge Global. Can Napolitano Associates be far behind?
categories: Homeland Security