WASHINGTON – Responding to widespread criticism, Department of Homeland Security officials are considering changes in the color-coded terror warning system and other methods of providing more useful information to the public without causing panic or disclosing closely held intelligence.
Among the possibilities forwarded to Secretary Michael Chertoff are issuing lower-key alerts on the department’s Web site – as the State Department does with travel advisories – rather than by holding news conferences. Another idea would change the color categories to numbers or letters, current and former officials said.
Another option raised by some top Homeland Security officials who have studied the issue is to conduct periodic polls and focus groups to better understand how people react to warnings, they said.
Also, the department might launch a years-long public education campaign, including television documentaries and participation in made-for-television movies, officials said. The idea would be to help Americans understand the differences among various types of terrorist attacks and explain the typically fragmentary nature of the government’s intelligence about where and how attacks might be carried out.