And Good Riddance

If ever anything was security theatre, it was this nonsense:

There goes another punch line.

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to get rid of the color-coded terrorism alert system. Known officially as the Homeland Security Advisory System, the five-color scheme was introduced by the Bush administration in March 2002.

Red, the highest level, meant “severe risk of terrorist attacks.” The lowest level, green, meant “low risk of terrorist attacks.” Between those were blue (guarded risk), yellow (significant) and orange (high).

The nation has generally lived in the yellow and orange range. The threat level has never been green, or even blue.

In an interview on “The Daily Show” last year, the homeland security chief, Janet Napolitano, said the department was “revisiting the whole issue of color codes and schemes as to whether, you know, these things really communicate anything to the American people any more.”

The answer, apparently, is no.

About time.

23 replies
  1. 1
    MikeJ says:

    Obama throws pantone under the bus.

  2. 2
    feebog says:

    No one has paid attention to the color code system for long time anyway. I really wish they would keep it and add pink.

  3. 3
    Ramiah Ariya says:

    I thought the color codes stood for the degree to which Sharia law is likely to be implemented.

  4. 4
    TooManyJens says:

    The best thing to ever come out of the color coding system was the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode “Black Watch Plaid.”

  5. 5
    Chicago Todd says:

    My guess is that the government has figured out that they can’t scare the public with this anymore which is ultimately why it is going away.

    I am sure they are looking for something else to make more people afraid of the scary terrorists to allow for cavity searches at the airports next. At least, I can get my prostate checked twice a month if that is the case.

  6. 6
    Origuy says:

    The existence of green and blue implied that terrorism could be eliminated entirely, thus the War on Terror could be won if only we fought harder.

  7. 7
    asiangrrlMN says:

    It never meant anything because it never fucking changed. Orange. It was always fucking orange.

    @Chicago Todd: Bingo. People pretty much ignore it (as they should). The rest of your statement, sadly, is prescient, I fear.

    @Origuy: Ha. Yeah, like we can eliminate drugs, right?

    @Jay in Oregon: I like that much better.

    OT: Gooooo Lions! (Hate the Pats and the Vikes suck, anyway).

    OT II: I wish you all peace, joy, and love.

  8. 8
    Jay in Oregon says:

    Does that mean I can’t use this anymore?

    I was so hoping for Cookie Monster…

  9. 9
    MattF says:

    Yeah, but any day now, the TSA will start demanding blood, hair, and urine samples. And a financial audit. And three references– not family, and if you’re an atheist– ooopsie.

  10. 10
    Gravenstone says:

    The only thing the threat charts symbolized was the Bush administration’s degree of desperation to deflect attention from the latest bit of bad news elsewhere.

  11. 11
    jimBOB says:

    The only thing it was ever intended to communicate was…

    “You’re all going to DIE!!!!! …unless you vote GOP”

    Since there were never any metrics for the government to use to adjust it, and because there was no action any individual could take in response to it, the system couldn’t possibly be used as anything other than a propaganda device. Which is what it was.

  12. 12
    BGinCHI says:

    @TooManyJens: Oh, I love Harvey Birdman.

    The Johnny Quest episode is one of the greatest TV things of all time. Just so much brilliance.

    Ps. Dangly parts!

  13. 13
    jwb says:

    @asiangrrlMN: You don’t remember W. changing it every time the Goopers encountered a bit of bad news during the first few years of its existence?

  14. 14
    jwb says:

    @MattF: I think the logic is that everyone will fly in TSA issued hospital gowns.

  15. 15
    CJ says:


    Wasn’t it always yellow? And then in case they needed it they’d bump it to orange to scare people. I feel like I remember Tom Ridge admitted to gaming it in anticipation of the 02 miderms.

  16. 16
    Punchy says:

    They needed to add the color brown, for obvious reasons. It would have come after yellow and reflected a need to buy adult diapers and new bed sheets in mass quantities.

  17. 17
    SectarianSofa says:

    “security theater” immediately made me think of the Bono/Spiderman thread from earlier.
    the elimination of colors probably does make the broadway version of ‘Terror Alert’ a bit more drab.
    (I’m too harried by halloween to think of anything more humorous in connection with. )
    (I mean, thanksgiving. )

  18. 18
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @jwb: No. I have blocked that part of our history out of my mind.

    @CJ: Locally, it has been orange for the last couple years. Every time I went to the airport, I would see: “Threat level: Orange” and just roll my eyes.

    Oh noez! Thread broken.

  19. 19
    ckelly says:

    Awww, I’m gonna miss those color codes. But hey, they did their job in keeping the sheeple in a perpetual state of fear — and all the resultant surrendering of civil liberties and voting in of Republicans was priceless.

  20. 20
    CalD says:

    Good riddance indeed. This was actually an instance of where the theater of the appearance of security not only did no good, it potentially made travelers less safe.

    I saw an Israeli security official interviewed once, might have been on the Daily Show, and when asked what he thought of the color coding system he asked, “Do you ever check the security status before you go to the airport?” When the interviewer answered no, he asked, “Who do you think does..?”

  21. 21
    Phoebe says:

    The only point was to further terrorize us, I always thought. And I think The Onion did too.

  22. 22
    Nic says:

    How will I know whether to be “orange” frightened?

  23. 23
    DPirate says:

    The ones around Dutch Harbor have never varied from the center point. I think they are all, in fact, rusted up. I imagine Dillingham, with it’s $400k worth of CCV has much safer fish than we do, but who knows.

    Some say any day now…

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