Whereas the Russian State Duma deputies are just getting ready to discuss the first reading of a draft law on introducing a three-step terrorist-threat alarm system in Russia, the U.S. authorities are already intending to call off the five-step system that has become, as Americans think, out-of-date.
Here the analogy with automobiles arises. While the Russians are anticipating having a three-gearbox car, the Americans are about to change to “an automatic transmission.” Nobody can tell for sure what it will be like. Any novelty, of course, is under a veil of mystery until the last moment. Nevertheless, some details have been leaked out to the media, including the time of the presentation. According to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, this important event for Americans will happen in April.
Presumably, the National Terrorist Advisory System will replace the existing color-coded threat system. It is also known that “specific threats in geographical regions” will be taken into consideration first when the system begins to operate. In other words, the American people will be warned about a threat that comes from, for instance, the African countries or, let’s say, the Middle East. At the same time, obviously, the question of what to do about the threat coming from “al-Qaida” — the terrorist foxholes of which are dispersed all over the world — remains open.
But the American congressmen are less concerned about this uncertainty compared to the question of whether U.S. intelligence is capable of protecting secret information from the public eye in the framework of the new advisory system. “I expect the biggest challenge for DHS will be balancing the need to provide useful and timely information with the need to protect sensitive information,” said Peter King, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Nevertheless, he is not averse to updating an important element of homeland security: “It was clearly time for the current color-coded system to be replaced with a more targeted system.”
His colleague, Congressman Bennie Thompson, agrees that the five-step model has become out-of-date: “Many in Congress felt the system was being used as a political scare tactic — raising and lowering the threat levels when it best suited the Bush administration. The old system taught the Americans to be scared, not prepared.”
We would like to remind you that the existing color-coded system for terrorist-threat levels was implemented in the U.S. after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The implementation took half a year. The system was activated at the direction of President George W. Bush on March 11, 2002.
The system consists of five different color levels — green, blue, yellow, orange and red. If the “red” level is announced, public and governmental establishments lock up and stop working. In the period of time that the system has been operating, the threat level was raised to “red” only once, on Aug. 10, 2006. And this threat level was exclusively applied to commercial flights between the U.S. and Great Britain.
The cause of the raised threat level then was information about the disclosure of the conspiracy to commit terrorist acts on transatlantic airline flights. Six days later, on Aug. 16, 2006, the threat level for the flights mentioned above was lowered to “orange.” This level still remains the same.