Dean Esmay likes the threat levels and is tired of people complaining:

The Homeland Security alert level has been raised to ‘High’. I wasn’t going to mention it here, because I assumed most people had heard it. But I’ve gone to many different web sites today from people who are making snarky comments about it, and it’s starting to get on my nerves. They’re saying things to imply that the information is worthless, is stupid, doesn’t do them any good or even, in a few cases, implying that it’s just an attempt to frighten us.

He goes on for several paragraphs and there’s a reasonably good discussion going on in the comments section. It’s worth a look.

My problem with the system is that it becomes background noise. There are five alert levels: Low, Guarded, Elevated, High, and Severe.

Since the inception of the system, we have always been in either Elevated or High status. Because the level is set by a bureaucracy, it will likely always be either Elevated or High. No bureaucrat is going to be willing to take the risk of lowering the level to merely Guarded or–Heaven forfend–Low because, if they do, and an attack happens, heads would roll. Likewise, we’re unlikely to see the level raised to Severe unless we’re literally in the midst of an attack and already know it. No one is going to be willing to call Red Alert and then not have an attack happen.

Indeed, Frank J’s version of the system back in May was probably more useful.

FILED UNDER: 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. Meezer says:

    But who’s fault is it that “heads would roll?” A reasonable public would allow that it would be better to really use the system and accept that even green would not be [ala Frank J.] danger free utopia. But a reasonable public is what we ain’t got. I’ll bet there are a sad bunch of people out there already planning some bizarre lawsuit if (they hope) something happens without a warning.

  2. Rv. Agnos says:

    If I were a terrorist, and I hated the “Terror Alert” level, I would announce that I would only attack America on days that the Terror Alert level had been lowered.

    That way, lowering the terror alert level would increase the chances of a terrorist attack more than raising the terror alert level did.

    The fact that terrorists have not done this is some evidence that the terrorists are in no way disturbed by the National Terror Alert system.

  3. Rv. Agnos says:

    Also, if heads are going to roll, it should be for creating a system that is not Chromatically Accurate. (Green safer than Blue? Puh-lease.)

  4. I wonder if this is going to be like the “stock rankings” from the various investment banks where the “Real” rank is something different from what the banks believe.

    For example “hold” means SELL! “Sell” means “It already declaired bankrupcy”. “Buy” means “I bought some for my personal account and need others to bid it up”.

    Something about public rankings and accountability seem to do this, huh?