Shades of Danger

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Homeland security is about to get colorful. Next week the White House is planning to announce a multihued threat-warning system designed to warn the public and help guard against future terrorist attacks. Starting with green — the most relaxed status — the system assigns blue, yellow, orange and red as the danger increases, and offers guidelines for how to respond to each level. When U.S. intelligence receives reliable information about a new threat, Director Tom Ridge's Homeland Security Council will huddle to determine which color fits the situation. The color wheel is designed to provide some context to what have so far been one-size-fits-all warnings that make it hard for local law-enforcement officers to know whether they need merely to leave their cell phones by the bed or dispatch armed guards to the bridges.

The spectrum bears the micromanaging touch of a President who doesn't usually fiddle with the fine details. White was once considered a possible warning color, but last Thursday Bush discarded the designation as too neutral and confusing. Although the council hasn't decided what color to assign to our current status, it will start at least one level more hazardous than green in an effort to give the public hope of better days to come.