(WASHINGTON) — The new U.S. terror alert system that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Monday he would announce in the coming days is actually more of a modification, a department official clarified later in the day.
It is “not a new system,” but rather a revision of the one that is already in place, the official said.
“Earlier this year, Secretary Johnson directed a review of the NTAS to determine how the Department of Homeland Security can more effectively and quickly communicate information to the public and other partners regarding threats to the homeland. This is not a new system. DHS will announce changes to the NTAS in the near future,” the official said. “As always, we will adjust security measures, as necessary, to protect the American people to meet a constantly evolving threat picture.”
Johnson had said earlier Monday, “I believe that we need to do a better job of informing the public at large of what we are seeing, removing some of the mystery about the global terrorism threat and what we are doing about it and what we are asking the public to do.”
Johnson said the United States has moved into a “new phase” in the global terrorist threat and requires an alert system that can respond appropriately.
“We’re dealing with the prospect of terrorist-inspired attacks by someone who may be totally below our radar and could act on a moment’s notice,” he said.
The current National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), which replaced the old color-coded warning system, has never been activated because it depends on a specific, credible threat to the homeland.
“I believe that in this environment we need to get beyond that and go to a new system that has an intermediate level to it and I’ll be announcing soon hopefully what our new system is that I think reflects the current environment and the current realities,” he said.
He made his remarks in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 victims dead and 21 other injured, which the FBI is investigating as an act of terrorism.
In October, Johnson said that DHS was looking at revising the current alert system that replaced the color-coded system based on the latest threats.
“I will tell you that we are considering revising our NTAS system, the National Threat Advisory System, which we’ve never used. We left the color-coded bars to an NTAS system, which we’ve never used. I’ve asked our folks to consider whether we should revise that system to accommodate how the terrorist threat has evolved. That review is underway now,” said Johnson in October.
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