Shockingly, we are now back to ORANGE. Question: Am I going to change how I conduct my life one scintilla of an iota? I mean, aside from hiding under my desk covered in plastic wrap while holding a roll of duct tape? (Or was that Level Yellow? I can never keep that straight.)

Update: I have now familiarized myself with the DHS Scaredy Cat Decoder and have not slaked my thirst for insight.

For one thing, they haven’t gotten around to updating their web site:

Following a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Homeland Security Council, has made the decision to lower the threat advisory level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack, or “yellow level.”

Maybe they don’t update except when it’s Level RED? Or, perhaps, they stop updating after it gets to YELLOW because they’re too busy protecting us.

Also, they inform me that:

The world has changed since September 11, 2001. We remain a nation at risk to terrorist attacks and will remain at risk for the foreseeable future.

Actually, I don’t think the world has changed a lick since 9/11, but certainly our perception of it has.

Regardless, a useful insight follows:

At all Threat Conditions, we must remain vigilant, prepared, and ready to deter terrorist attacks. The following Threat Conditions each represent an increasing risk of terrorist attacks. Beneath each Threat Condition are some suggested Protective Measures, recognizing that the heads of Federal departments and agencies are responsible for developing and implementing appropriate agency-specific Protective Measures. . .

So, I’m supposed to be not only vigilant, but also prepared and ready. I need to acquaint myself with the nuances in those terms, as they all mean the same thing to me.

At any rate, if you look at the detailed list, you’ll see that we as citizens actually don’t have anything to do based on changing rainbow colors. It’s just the various government agencies that have to vary their levels of vigilance, preparation, and readiness.

FILED UNDER: Best of OTB, Terrorism, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    I know run all my students through a metal detector before entering class.

  2. Steven says:

    Crud! You beat me by eight minutes! Of course, I suspect that two young children didn’t come jump in your lap whilst you were trying to post.

  3. James Joyner says:

    You are correct, sir.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Although, if memory serves me correctly, kids recently coming out of surgery aren’t supposed to do any lap-leaping, especially during increased levels of terrorist alert.

  5. Bryan says:

    {spelling maven voice}
    Shouldn’t that be “scarEdy” cat decoder?
    {/spelling maven voice}

  6. James Joyner says:

    Could be. I was going to add an E some place but couldn’t decide where. Not sure there’s even such a word.

  7. Bryan says:

    Not actually a dictionary word, but a school-yard insult of some use IIRC. But the spelling that you had earlier would have more likely been pronounced with a soft “a”, like Scar -dee Cat.

    Thanks for the info. I was beginning to wonder how much more Vigilant, Prepared and Ready I could get. I think I’m about ready to consign “The World Has Changed Since 9/11” to the cliche bin as well. It’s kind of like “Things will never be the same as they were before 9/11.” Oh, yeah. people would be surprised how much things are *exactly* the same as they were before 9/11.

  8. MommaBear says:

    Of course, one must mention that NOWHERE to be found is any mention of those departments having any competence.

  9. Kathy K says:

    “Actually, I don’t think the world has changed a lick since 9/11, but certainly our perception of it has. ”
    Spot on!

    Also, what MommaBear said, with the caveat that the agencies that may not be competent include our beloved agency of “Homeland Security”.

    (We should have gone orange days ago, IMAO.)

  10. narciso says:

    Is it just me, or should we be that worried about
    an organization, that is at best doing 1995 level
    stunts (against poorly secured targets): By that
    I mean, the attack against another Saudi National
    Guard/Vinnell facility, not Khalid & Ramzi’s dozen airliner plot out of Manila.The Casablanca
    & Riyadh bombings, notwitstanding; (What is the
    point of our outposts in Jiddah & Riyadh; they
    don’t gather intelligence, and until recently
    they were providing Visa Express for the next
    crop of sleeper cells

  11. James Joyner says:


    I think that our government should indeed be worried, since the aforementioned stunts are killing lots of people. I just don’t think the population as a whole should worry because

  12. The specific risk of getting killed by a terrorist is very, very low;
  13. The risk is far lower still for people who don’t live in a major metropolitan area–especially Manhattan and DC;
  14. There’s not a whole hell of a lot we can do about it, anyway, as individuals.