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Color-coded terror alert system could get scrapped

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is considering abandoning the color-coded terror alert system that became a barometer of the nation's anxieties after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but was often mocked for providing little guidance on how citizens should respond.

The Department of Homeland Security has recommended replacing the color-coded system with new measures aimed at providing more specific information on emerging terror threats, U.S. officials said.

"The goal is to replace a system that communicates nothing with a system that communicates precise, actionable information based on the latest intelligence to law enforcement, the private sector and the American public," a senior homeland security official said.

The existing system, in place since 2002, uses a band of five colors in a stoplight-like arrangement to convey the nation's terror alert status, with green corresponding to a low threat level, orange to medium and red to high.

The alerts were once routinely displayed in airports and at times on television newscasts to underscore the level of concern about the prospect of a terrorist attack. But in a measure of how much the system has faded in importance, officials said that the last time the colors changed was in 2006.

Dozens of terror plots have surfaced since then, including a failed attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas day last year and the botched bombing of Times Square by a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen in May.

Experts said the color system had become an almost forgotten relic of the nation's frantic post-Sept. 11 response.

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