Feds cry wolf in full color | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Feds cry wolf in full color

Tahoe Daily Tribune

High — that is the alert status the United States has been operating at since Friday.

Orange is the second highest of the five color-coded categories. Usually we are a notch below — yellow — for elevated. The highest is red — severe condition.

All of this color mumbo jumbo came about last year when the federal government wanted an easy way to get across the severity of the situation to people here and abroad.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said currently there is an imminent “high risk” of a major attack. Not much is not on list of potential sites that are worthy of attack — it includes apartment buildings. It is hard to get worked up over this threat of an attack when the details are lacking, the sites arbitrary.

It makes us wonder what good there is in raising the national terrorism threat alert — or to even have one in the first place.

People who have been flying commercially know all about needing to be aware of unattended luggage, briefcases and the like. Travelers know about not taking things from strangers.

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People who live where there are natural disasters on a regular basis — whether it be earthquakes in California or hurricanes in Florida — have long ago been advised to have a plan for when Mother Nature strikes.

It is true Americans have this laissez faire attitude that danger happens in other parts of the world. Reality hit us Sept. 11. We know it can happen to us. No one should still be naive enough to believe that our government can sift through the intelligence data it receives to always protect us.

Terrorists will undoubtedly attack our country again. Common sense should be the order of the day. Burying our head in the sand is not the correct approach.

But scare tactics are not going to do anyone any good either. Elevating the terrorist threat status is tantamount to screaming fire in a crowded theater, or maybe it is more like crying wolf. The last thing we want is for the predictions to come true, but at the same time there is no benefit to publicly announcing the threats when there is no substance behind them.

The State Department for years has issued travelers warning about countries it perceives to be dangerous. People living in and visiting these countries can stay or leave. It is a personal choice. The department usually is more specific about the threat than the Home Security office has been with its warnings.

It is imperative that law enforcement be alerted to threats. It is also wise for potential targets to be warned so they can beef up security. But when there is nothing extraordinary the average person can do, should we be told?

Is the government creating a world where Americans are afraid to go on a weekend getaway, let alone on a major vacation? Will we be living our lives in a state of paranoia?

All that Tom Ridge, secretary of Homeland Security, suggests for families is they have a “contact plan” in case there is a disaster. With the number of cell phones in this country, we know how to reach out.

The federal government needs to take a look at its policies. Clearly, there have been times in our past when the threat to our country has been very real. And we are not saying this is not one of those times. But without a real plan of action that we can all carry out, we ask is there more harm than good being done with the color-coded alert system? Are we being scared unnecessarily?

Give us specifics so we can believe there is a threat. Give us an action plan to protect ourselves, our families, our businesses and our communities. Give us something tangible instead of propaganda.