Many people believe that the color-coded terror alert system was lways designed to serve two purposes. One, to convey a vague sense of dread about tenuously credible but maddeningly abstract threats. And two, to convey a completely arbitrary vague sense of dread whenever it was politically expedient to do so. Yesterday, former duct tape czar Tom Ridge seemed to admit as much at a Washington forum. "There were times when [others in the Bush Administration] were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?'"
Is it time, then, to reimagine the system and make it less random and more useful? As Ridge's successors at the Department of Homeland Security contemplate potential "improvements and adjustments," allow us to make a suggestion. With just a few minor tweaks, much like those employed on the recent food pyramid makeover, we think the terror threat system could evolve from an easily manipulated anxiety booster to an oddly calming distraction. — GREG BEATO
Ridge reveals clashes on alerts [USA Today]