Terror Alert Color Code Fades to Black: New Threat Warning System Coming Online

New terror threat warning system to come online as old color code fades to away.

April 19, 2011, 11:32 PM

April 20, 2011— -- The color coded terror threat warning system is no more.

It will be replaced with a much simpler system known as the National Terrorism Advisory System.

The new alerts will include a clear statement that there is an "Imminent Threat" or "Elevated Threat" along with clear and concise information about the threat.

Imminent warns of a credible, specific and impending terrorist threat against the United States.

Elevated is defined as a credible terrorist threat against the United States.

The public will be informed of what the government is doing to mitigate the threat and what it can do deal with the threat.

The guide being released today also urges the public to become familiar with the Department of Homeland Security's public awareness campaign called "See Something-Say Something" that has the public alert law enforcement and security to suspicious events.

The new system, unlike the old one, will have specified end dates when there is an alert, but DHS officials say the alert can be extended if new threat information becomes available about a specific or developing threat if new intelligence is obtained or discovered.

Alerts will be issued by the Homeland Security Secretary who will make the final call after consulting with the U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement community.

"In some cases, alerts will be sent directly to law enforcement or affected areas of the private sector, while in others, alerts will be issued more broadly to the American people through both official and media channels," the guide released Wednesday morning notes.

The administration will get the word out using traditional media — but also Facebook, Twitter and potentially other social media.

Alerts will also be seen at transportation hubs like airports and subways, and government buildings.

The NTAS system will officially be in operation on April 26.

DHS Secretary Napolitano is scheduled to hold a press conference about the new System today in New York at Grand Central Station.

New System Includes Better Intelligence Analysis

A guide released for the public on this morning notes of the new system, "Each alert provides information to the public about the threat, including, if available, the geographic region, mode of transportation, or critical infrastructure potentially affected by the threat; protective actions being taken by authorities, and steps that individuals and communities can take to protect themselves and their families, and help prevent, mitigate or respond to the threat."

Homeland Security officials have said the revision of the system was possible because of better intelligence collection and analysis.

When the changes to scrap the system were announced by Napolitano in January 2011 she said, "The Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, and the entire intelligence community, of which DHS is a member, is producing more and better streams of intelligence than at any time in the past."

In July 2009, Napolitano ordered a 60-day review of the system used to inform the public of the terror threat environment to see if it needed to be altered.

The task force appointed by Napolitano said, "Task Force membership believes the color code system has suffered from a lack of credibility and clarity leading to an erosion of public confidence such that it should be abandoned."

The color code based threat level has not been raised or lowered since 2006 and officials say they have been better able to tailor security procedures without making changes to the color code system.

The color codes, initially set up in 2002, were adjusted 16 times in their first four years. The system, which spanned the spectrum of colors from green -- or "low" -- risk of terrorist attack, to red -- "severe" -- has never gone below yellow -- or "elevated" -- risk.

The color system was often parodied on late night comedy shows but even Former Secretary Tom Ridge acknowledged recently that it was an improvement over the early threat warnings in the days and weeks after 9/11.

On March 1, 2011, when DHS marked its 8th Anniversary, Ridge said at an event at Georgetown University, "The first thing that happened was you had [Attorney] General Ashcroft, and [FBI Director] Bob Mueller and Tom Ridge just have a press conference and say the threat tomorrow is greater than it is today: Be alert, be aware have a good day and walk off the stage, not very effective."

At the event last month, Ridge called the color code threat advisory version 2.0 from the early warnings and said that what Secretary Napolitano was undertaking was version 3.0.

ABC News' Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.

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