Those Terror Alert Color Codes

Rich Galen
By Rich Galen | September 23, 2009 | 5:06 AM EDT

Way back when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was first established, Secretary Tom Ridge decided on a color coded system of alerts.
Green was absolutely cross-the-highway-with-your-eyes-closed safe. All the way up to Red: Spend everything in your checking account and max out the credit cards; it's all over.
We all laughed and laughed and laughed.
Ridge, in his current book, referred to a case where there was serious debate just before the 2004 election as to whether the threat level should be raised. There was a great deal of gnashing of teeth as to whether it was because George W. Bush's popularity rose along with the threat level or because there was a real threat.
As Ridge has said, "The system worked." They discussed it and decided to leave the threat level where it where it was. Bush, you might have heard, won re-election anyway.
The normal state of alert is Yellow, which is where it stands as I type this at 9:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time. The alert level for airline flights remains at Orange which is why you have to take off your shoes, take out your laptop, and you can no longer carry your lucky Samurai Sword on an airplane.
In another one of those "it's easier to be a candidate than hold office" deals, the current DHS Secretary, Janet Napolitano, said on July 14, 2009 that she was ordering a 60-day review of the color code system. Sure enough, on September 16, the commission appointed to do the review reported back that the system should be changed.
To what?
Dunno. Maybe drop the number of gradations from five to three. OK! Now we're onto something.
If a Republican were the Secretary of Homeland Security and, as part of the national effort to control swine flu had given the advice to "cough into your elbow" that would have been the national joke for the ensuing six weeks.
But, because this is a Democratic Administration, the popular press nodded, winked to one another and ran out to Brook Brothers to buy sweaters with reinforced elbows.
All this because of those clowns in Denver and New York that the Feds rounded up and the threat they may still pose in blowing up a high-value target.
You might have also read that the U.N. General Assembly opens in New York this week and dozens of heads of state will be in Manhattan yukking it up and telling each other how it's all the last guy's fault.
According to the Washington Times, "Two bulletins from the FBI and the Homeland Security Department were sent to local law enforcement agencies Monday, the same day three men were arraigned on charges of lying to the FBI in connection with the bureau's investigation of the purported plot."
The investigation into this potential plot is apparently just this side of a frenzy. The WashTimes reported: “Authorities last week seized a large number of backpacks and cellular phones from apartments in the New York borough of Queens…The fatal train bombings in London and Madrid were carried out with bombs hidden in backpacks and detonated by cellular phones.”
While all that was going on, the Associated Press reported at about 9:16 last night that: “The government expanded a terrorism warning from transit systems to U.S. stadiums, hotels and entertainment complexes as investigators searched for more suspects Tuesday in a possible al-Qaida plot to set off hydrogen-peroxide bombs hidden in backpacks.”
Attorney General Eric Holder told CBS, "'It's not totally clear to us at this point what it is they had in mind, though I think it is clear that something very serious and something very organized was under way."
We might have some better idea about who is plotting to do what and where they are planning to do it, if a significant proportion of CIA employees were not busy looking for lawyers to defend themselves against prosecution by that very same Eric Holder.
The New York Post detailed additional police presence in and around New York's transit system. It quoted Police Commissioner Raymond Keller as saying:
The city is "obligated" to put itself on heightened alert whenever possible plots surface following the September 11, 2001, and 1993 attacks at the World Trade Center.
I pray that nothing happens. But you have to wonder: Is the Obama Administration reluctant to raise the terror alert because it is afraid of being compared to the Bush Administration?
If so, we may all be at greater risk because of Obama's fear of a color code.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Washington Times, Associated Press and New York Post articles. Also a Mullfoto left over from the day I traded the Mullmobile for the MullFord under the cash-for-clunkers program and a MULLINGS-appropriate Catchy Caption of the Day.