Skip to comments.Security experts: Homeland Security faces hurdles in replacing terror alerts
Posted on 01/30/2011 10:06:55 PM PST by Libloather
Security experts: Homeland Security faces hurdles in replacing terror alerts
By Jordy Yager - 01/30/11 12:27 PM ET
National security experts applauded the decision to end the color-coded threat advisory system, but said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to ramp up information-sharing and messaging efforts if a new system is going to succeed.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced last week the agencys plan to drop the Bush-era advisory system that used colors to indicate the level of threats to the U.S. In its place, DHS plans to deliver formal, detailed alerts about a specific or credible terrorist threat that will either be tagged as an imminent threat or an elevated threat.
But as DHS pushes ahead with its new two-tiered message-driven advisory system over the next three months, experts say it will be a challenge for the department to strike a balance between disseminating the right amount of information to thwart an attack, and giving out too much information that could jeopardize the security of the countrys intelligence.
The hardest part is going to be how do you create the right unclassified messages in order to communicate with people, when youre dealing with classified sources and methods. And then how do you do that rapidly, said David Howe, the CEO of the homeland security consulting Civitas Group. Howe was a special assistant to President George W. Bush and the senior director for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Homeland Security Council in the White House.
The new threat advisory system plans to disseminate threat advisories to law enforcement officials, private businesses such as shopping malls or hotels and the American public, depending on the nature of the threat. It is part of DHSs push to engage local communities and law enforcement officials in identifying suspicious activity or behavior, which was launched to the forefront last year with the departments See something say something campaign.
But in stepping up its messaging efforts, DHS is going to need to be more specific in identifying what the threat actually is, said Jena Baker McNeill, a homeland security policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation.
If the public doesnt know what they should be looking for, what are they supposed to say? Baker said. So if theres a specific report about shopping malls, people at those malls are going to understand a little bit better what theyre supposed to be looking out for.
Theres a lot of desire among people to know what were facing. I mean we talk about that but a lot of times we dont really communicate it to the public in a way that means something to them.
Brian Jackson, a terrorism researcher with the RAND Corporation, said that DHSs messaging may be used not only to advise the public but also as a deterrent against a terrorist who may be plotting an attack and, upon hearing the alert, may think otherwise.
Jackson said that the trick for DHS will be to temper how often it sends out alerts about possible threats.
The real challenge in information sharing is that you dont want to have a warning that you dont act on because you thought it was a false alarm but you also dont want to share so many of the false alarms that youre running up the cost of responding where thats not sustainable either, said Jackson
The color-coded system was developed after 9/11 to give the public a color that represented the level of the threat. It largely remained at yellow for domestic travel and orange for national security, and when it did elevate to red, the public was rarely given any specific information about the reason why. As a result it was widely criticized as being ineffective and was believed to have caused the public to become complacent to the warnings.
We have lots of information that flows and sometimes its difficult to really know which piece of information is critical to need to handle right now, said J. Eric Dietz, the director of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute and founding executive director for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Adding to that precarious line of deciding what is a threat and what is not is the fact that when DHS elevates the threat level, it inevitably receives a deluge of reported threats from law enforcement and the public.
The challenge is that when we over-alarm the public and we get more information than we can handle and chase down, then we look as equally ineffective with too much information as we did with too little, said Dietz.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."
Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Turn the Mafia loose", and "Call in the Sicilians for help."
The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll Be Alright, Mate." Three more escalation levels remain: "Crikey!", "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend", and "The barbie is cancelled."
If they are having difficulty, why in hell do it?
Haven’t they got more important things to do, like come and close this damned border?
My security level is uber-miffed.
Why should the Scots worry, force them to eat Haggis and they will never come back!
As for Nappy, she wanted to just skip the whole thing...
The DHS has raised its Terrorist Threat Level from “Anti Abortion Bumper Sticker” to “Disgruntled Veteran”.
Next higher levels are Constitutionalist and Second Amendment Nut.
Is the Gay Muppet a Pink Alert?
If the public doesnt know what they should be looking for, what are they supposed to say? Baker said. "
Do we need instructions if we see these guys walking around?
The imbeciles in the O administration decided to remove the color alerts before they had a substitute.
Guess they believe if they take away the color alerts we’ll forget the jihadists still want to destroy America.