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Upgraded threat alert system expected soon

From Jeanne Meserve
CNN Homeland Security Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CNN has learned that a color-coded threat warning system the Office of Homeland Security expects to unveil soon will be geographically specific when possible -- meaning only states or cities affected would be put on a higher state of alert.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has said a new threat warning system is one of his priorities. The rollout is expected shortly, but an exact timetable has not been set.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports on the revamping of 'high alert' warnings that don't say what the threat is or what to do about it. (March 7)

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The plan may allow for the dissemination of classified information on a need-to-know basis to some state and local officials, but this aspect and other parts of the plan have not been finalized.

Still under discussion, officials said, are the number of alert categories and the colors and language associated with each one. The question of which agency will activate the warning system -- the Office of Homeland Security or Justice Department -- also is being debated.

Each color-coded category will trigger specific actions by state and local governments and federal agencies. The reference to a color would be a shorthand way of characterizing the alert as the message is distributed.

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Ridge is meeting Thursday with representatives of governmental organizations, including the National Governors Association and the National League of Cities, to brief them on the proposal and solicit feedback.

An Office of Homeland Security representative said it is important to ensure that those with a stake in the plan are comfortable with it.

Awaiting details of the final plan, state and local officials said they are enthusiastic about the prospect of a graduated threat warning system.

They had complained that the three general threat warnings issued since September 11 did not provide enough information about the nature of the threats. With more specific details, they said they will be able to target their response, making it more effective and less expensive.




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