The AP article (by Siobhan McDonough, Washington) “Many stumped by terror alert system” (Sunday Times, 6/8/03) points to a government failure that the media has the power to correct. People assume that the alert level/color is to tell the public how to respond. It is not. It is a code for security agencies at all levels, instructing them to implement appropriate plans. For instance, code yellow and code orange have different personnel and action protocols for, say, guarding the Golden Gate Bridge. Non-security people are not supposed to do anything differently – we are to go about our business and pleasure while alert for anything suspicious in either case – but more people in security agencies will work longer hours and check more things at the higher level. We will indeed run into more limitations at higher levels, such as the girl group not being able to have their ‘bridge’ ceremony on the GGB under orange alert, while they could have done so under yellow alert. This is the primary purpose of publicizing the level, to let the public know there may be restrictions. The Times and other papers could make this clear instead of reporting the confusion.
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