system used by the Homeland Security Department to warn of potential
terrorist attacks is too vague and fails to provide specific information
on appropriate protective measures, according to a Congressional
Research Service report.
established last year, uses five color levels to indicate various
potential threats-green, representing a "low" risk of
attack; blue, representing a "guarded" risk; yellow,
representing an "elevated" risk; orange, representing
a "high" risk; and red, representing a "severe
system was launched, the level has been raised from yellow to
orange four times, according to the report prepared by Congress'
public policy research service. Currently, the terrorism threat
alert level stands at yellow. In its report, CRS said the system
is too vague on the nature of the potential terrorist threat,
leading to concerns that the public may begin to disregard it.
to Congress that it instruct the Homeland Security Department
to use the advisory system to provide specific warnings to targeted
locations when possible. Homeland Security could also issue general
warnings, without using the advisory system, to notify state and
local governments and the public, the report says.
suggests Congress should do more to establish protective measures
for states, localities and the general public, even through legislation,
if necessary. It warns, however, that a list of general measures
may be less effective than those developed by state and local
Security spokesman said the department is "well aware"
that the advisory system needs revision. "We are well aware
that it is a brand new program that will need to continually be
refined," Homeland Security spokesman Gordon Johndroe was
quoted by The Washington Post as saying. "Communicating threat
information even to security personnel is a new and developing
field for this country," he said.