Ridge defends color-coded alert system

| Monday, August 25, 2003

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge this week defended the color-coded national terrorism-alert system, which some say is too vague to be effective.

Ridge's remarks came after the Congressional Research Service released a report last week that said the system wasn't specific enough, leading to concerns the public may come to disregard the warnings.

While attending a National Governor's Association meeting in Indianapolis, Ridge said the system is good, but the Homeland Security Department will continue to improve it.

"It is a system designed – and I think it's worked fairly well – to, one, alert the public generally that it is a consensus opinion within the president's Homeland Security Council … that the level of threat has either gone up or has receded," Ridge said.

Ridge said some governors were frustrated with the general nature of the warnings issued. The system is flexible enough, however, to allow for the issuing of specific threat advisories to states or localities if such intelligence were received, he said.

"I assure you, when the information is specific enough to warrant a warning being limited to a particular area, we will do that," Ridge told the governors.

Meanwhile, Ridge also called on governors to identify five additional officials in each of their states who would receive security clearances giving them access to classified homeland security-related information.

He also said the Homeland Security Department is planning to build a secure Web site to allow federal and state security officials to share information.

In addition to improving information-sharing, the Homeland Security Department also plans to work with state homeland security advisers to determine what permanent security measures can be implemented at 150 high-level targets throughout the country that were identified during Operation Liberty Shield, Ridge said.

He also said the department plans to work with state officials within the next six months to identify and improve security at a second tier of 180 sites.

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