Terror alert system on the way
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Feb 25, 2002
Tom Ridge, head of the Office of Homeland Security, said the federal government
would unveil a national alert system in a "couple of weeks" to better share
intelligence information about possible acts of terrorism with states and
The former Pennsylvania governor spoke at the National Governors Association's
(www.nga.org) winter meeting in Washington, D.C., Feb.
Ridge called the national alert system an "imperfect system" that will
need improvement. He said the federal government will not mandate use of
this system, and he asked for input from state and territorial governments.
He asked the governors to take a look at it, compare it with their systems
and make recommendations.
"That national system will have to be based on consent," he said.
The federal government has been working on a national system to better
rank potential terrorist threats. State and local officials have criticized
the warnings that have been issued since Sept. 11 because they contained
no details of when and where such acts may occur.
California Gov. Gray Davis proposed a national four-stage alert system
last year. But at the time, Ridge reportedly asked Davis to delay his proposal
so that the federal government could work on a national model.
According to the NGA Web site, such an alert system would categorize
credible threats as Stage 1, confirmed threats as Stage 2, confirmed threats
on specific locations as Stage 3, and confirmed threats within a specific
time frame as Stage 4. The International Association of Chiefs of Police
has proposed a similar model.
"The challenge of processing and analyzing the bits and pieces of information
that get before the intelligence community and FBI is more complex than
these professionals get credit for," Ridge said. "They're doing a far better
job today than on Sept. 11."
Ridge said assessing and corroborating information and then sharing
it is not an easy task. It's a cultural challenge as well as a technological
one, and the infrastructure is not yet set up to handle subjective analysis
and dissemination of information.
"It's as much art as it is science," he said.