The Homeland Security Department is proposing to discontinue the color-coded terror alert system that became a symbol of the country’s post-9/11 jitters and the butt of late-night talk show jokes.
The 8-year-old system, with its rainbow of five colors – from green, signifying a low threat, to red, meaning severe – became a fixture in airports, government buildings and on newscasts. Over the past four years, millions of travelers have begun and ended their trips to the sound of airport recordings warning that the threat level is orange.
The system’s demise would not be the end of terror alerts; instead, the alerts would become more descriptive and not as colorful. In the past two years, Obama administration officials have changed security protocols without changing the color of the threat, such as introducing new airport security measures after a terrorist tried to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner last Christmas.