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US Announces Terror Alert System

U.S. Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge has announced a new terror alert system, that assigns various colors to specific levels of risk. The new system is designed to reduce uncertainty and public anxiety when the government issues warnings about possible terrorist attacks.

The new five-level alert system starts with green as signifying the lowest risk from terrorist attack.

The color scheme escalates to blue, yellow, orange and finally to red, which signifies a severe risk of terrorist attack.

Mr. Ridge says the current terror risk for the country is yellow, signifying what he describes as a significant risk of attack.

Interviewed on CBS television Tuesday, Mr. Ridge says the new terror alert scheme will allow for different levels of alert in different parts of the country. "There is flexibility enough so that if we get other information that is credible and corroborated that deals with a specific sector of industry or a particular locality in the country, the nation can be on a certain level of risk but we can ask that community or company to raise their level of preparedness," he said.

The new alert scheme was developed partly in response to complaints from some local law enforcement agencies that previous terror alerts issued by the federal government raised public alarm while providing little in the way of specific information.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey says the new color-coded scheme is similar to one developed by U.S. intelligence agencies that seeks to rate both the type of information on which the threat is based and the source that provided it. "The government is in a dilemma," he said. "There are certain things it can't say explicitly and it certainly shouldn't sit on information where there is a high probability that something is going to occur. I think this is a good compromise. I'm quite supportive of it."

The new alert scheme is now in force for federal agencies and Mr. Ridge is urging state and local governments to adopt it as well.