What is the purpose of the Terror Alert level?

I am posting this in IMHO because I think many people will have opinions on this and I don’t want it to just degrade into a flame-fest about this political party or that political party.

That being said, I will state that I cannot vote (British citizen, permanently resident in the US) but I am not a Bush supporter and further more, I do not like his government much. I am posting this in the interests of fairness so you all know where I am coming from.

So, what is the purpose of the Terror Alert level? I think the only real purpose it serves is to create fear and suspicion amoung the populace.

There have been terrorist threats to many countries for years, even decades, and everyone has managed to get by without a terror alert system. I, as a general citizen, do not need to know every time some intelligence suggests there may be an attack. I expect the government to do what previous governments have done and act on the information to stop the attack without me even knowing that anything was happening. I don’t know exactly what the government expects me to do when they raise the terror alert level other than do what we should all be doing anyway; reporting suspicious activity/packages etc. and getting on with our lives.

There has been terrorism in the world for decades so why do we all need to know about it all of a sudden. If, as the latest alert said, a specific area or building is a “likely target”, does the governemt expect people to avoid the area? Will that help? What are they expecting/hoping for?

Does anyone have any better explaination for all this?

While I agree with you in general, a more specific answer could possibly be that the government was heavily criticized for having intelligence about possible attacks before 9/11 and not doing anything about it and not warning anyone about the increased possibility of an attack.

I think it is in response to the latter concern; at least the government can say they warned us this time. If nothing else, at least the government can say they are doing something about it!

I agree at best it is lame and probably serves no useful purpose, at worst it perpetuates the fear and suspicion that the administration can use to manipualte the population into agreeing to let the government have a virtual blank check to do whatever it wants.

Am I getting too far into Graet Debates territory here?

I believe there are certain things police and other emergency service providers are supposed to do at different levels. At these increasing levels of alerts communities step up readiness, put more police on the streets, etc.

One of the complaints often heard from municipal and state governments is that the alerts drain resources by mandating certain levels of readiness.

I agree with you RickQ that the alerts aren’t helpful. IMHO, I think the alerts create confusion and panic; and carry with them an inadvertant defeatest tone.

The rationales I’ve heard (not necessarily from the government) are:
[li]It can help to have paranoid citizens reporting all suspiscious activities they see[/li][li]If they just inform the local governments, police officers, etc. without informing the public, word will leak out and cause even greater panic[/li][/ul]

I have to wonder though, wouldn’t it be more effective to keep the warnings a secret and try to catch the terrorists in the act? Issuing warnings would merely cause terrorists to delay their attacks. And worse, it tells them exactly what the government knows (and doesn’t know) about the terrorist activities.

I think after the election, no matter who wins, you might see a re-thinking of the alert system. It is widely seen as ineffective, but to be fair it was created in early days when people really needed to feel that the government was on the job.

What I don’t like about the alerts is that it plays right into Bin Laden’s hands. Realistically, Al Qaeda does not have the capacity to destroy the United States. It does however have the capacity to radically change the way we live our lives, IF we let it. These alerts make us look terrified, which is what AQ wants. I think we are made of tougher stuff than our government gives us credit for.

Really? :rolleyes: I have seen neither. Whether or not you think its effective or not is one thing. No one is panicing in any of the places were there are supposed targets.

If there is intelligence about a threat what do want them to do? The color chart is what they came up with. Or they could say go to level 2 or go to page 3 in your SOP. Regardless of who is in th WH there is going to be a system in place. If it changes in form the substance will not. Various agencies need to be informed and take action. That is what is happening.

Wow what a bad idea. What if your timing is off? What lives are you willing to gamble with? James Bond doesn’t exist. There are no secret agents waiting to jump out and stop the bad guy in the nick of time.

I, for one, would like them to do their thwarting quietly. We pay the government big bucks to protect us.

I don’t necessarily mean on the actual day of the attack. Investigate them quietly until you can actually arrest the terrorists. Does that risk more lives than issuing a public warning?

Yes really. (I don’t know why you felt the need to put a smilie there, but right back at ya) :slight_smile: :rolleyes: :dubious: :cool: ;j

So do other people:

“ALLIES SCORN ALERT: The latest “code Orange” has drawn mild scorn from US allies in the “war on terror”, who say Washington’s high-profile alerts cause undue panic and could make people less safe by undermining trust in intelligence.”


What I want them to do is stop jumping at their own shadows every time Al Qaeda says boo, and realize that we are in this for the long haul and we can either let AQ disrupt our way of life, or we can roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The best explaination I’ve seen yet for the terror alerts:


What I don’t get about the current terror alert is that the gubmint found intelligence that’s years old, but has been updated in the last 8 months, so we have to go to a higher terror alert immediately.

Is there anything in the intelligence to indicate when the attack was going to occur? If not, when do we get to go off high alert? When can we be certain that the supposed plans we have discovered will definitely not be enacted? Ever? Or will the terror level just ratchet infinitely higher and higher as new terrorist plots are uncovered?

I mean, if I was The Bad Guys, I’d be all like, “Hey, guys, look at this! We don’t even have to do anything to terrorize these people! All we have to do is take some pictures, write out some vague plans with no dates, and leave them on the harddrive of a laptop that we leave lying around where some stooopid American is going to find it! They’ll indefinitely go on high alert! And we will watch them squander their resources, while we point and laugh!”

Please tell me that this isn’t what’s going on!

Yes really. (I don’t know why you felt the need to put a smilie there, but right back at ya)

Yes it was you I was rolling my eyes at :wink: . Sorry can’t help my reaction. I see your point in your second post. I have seen scorn. But no, I have not seen any confusion or panic started by the terror alerts. Hence the :rolleyes: .

Maybe it’s my tinfoil-hat nature, but I honestly think the terror alert system is one part of a larger effort to help keep the public in a generalized, vague state of anxiety. It makes it far easier to pass legislation like the Patriot Act when there’s a general sense of “those terrorists are still out there and one day they’ll be back!” I don’t think these decisions are made by sinister, cigar-smoking men pulling strings behind the scenes in dark, smoky rooms - I think it’s just natural for people who have come from a big-business background (as most of our high-level politicians do) to think in terms of manipulating public opinion through advertising and the media. And it works.

Um, yeah. Note their lack of even one supporting example of this supposed panic it’s causing. Sure, it could make people feel less safe. By that rationale, and blithe disdain of concrete examples, I can claim that the levels going up could incease the sales of cookie-dough ice-cream. It probably won’t incease sales, but it could…

The alternative is that the gov’t doesn’t tell us what’s going on.

Imagine if one of these alerts DID culminate in a terrorist attack. The populace would go apeshit. “You KNEW and you didn’t TELL US?!?!?”

So if you don’t like the Terror Alert level system… blame us.

I would think that the bigger problem would be that they didn’t stop a terrorist attack.

Oh yeah.

Hmmm… Narrative voice for the trilogy was provided by an entity called “GWB-666”, too. :dubious:

:sound effect of tin-foil crinkling: :smiley: “Where the hell is Fernando Poo?” fnord

It all seems to me to be a way of ‘crying wolf’ and covering your bases at the same time. There’s no loss for the U.S. Government the way it’s done. Really, do these alerts have any affect on the American population anymore? It seems to me to be the same as the Weather Service calling a ‘Tornado Watch’(not a warning). Heck, you know the possibility is there…but after the first 100 or so…do you cower or do you just accept it?

Thanks for all your input and thoughts.

I still don’t think we need a terror alert system. I don’t think we need to know every time the gov’t suspects something may happen because there is nothing most of us can do about it and in fact, it would be worse if we stopped doing normal things like travelling and going to work etc.

Loach, I would also hope that law enforcement and other agencies do not rely on the terror alert system to find out about what is going on. They have not needed it in the past and I don’t think they need it now.

Whether the gov’t tells us or not, there would be nothing we could do. If the gov’t cannot stop terrorists, what can anyone else do?

Yeah, but you’re looking at things calmly and rationally. Since when does the general public or the media do so? If there were no incessant, annoying warnings and another surprise attack happened, the “you knew and you didn’t warn us” reaction would be exactly what we would all hear 24/7 from the press, from protesters in the streets, and from every opportunistic politician who can get his or her ugly mug on camera for 30 seconds.