- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The government’s notorious color-coded guide to terrorist threats will soon be fading to black.

The much-derided terror warning system will be phased out beginning this week, according to government officials familiar with the plan. An announcement has been scheduled Thursday by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The Obama administration has been reviewing the Homeland Security Advisory System’s usefulness for more than a year. One of the most notable changes to come: The public will no longer hear automated recordings at U.S. airports stating that the “threat level is orange.”

Officials will take the next three months to roll out a replacement, which will be called the National Terrorism Advisory System. The new plan calls for notifying specific audiences about specific threats. In some instances, it might be a one-page threat description sent to law enforcement officials describing the threat, what law enforcement needs to do about it and what the federal government is doing, one official said.

The five-tiered color-coded terror warning system, created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was one of the Bush administration’s most visible anti-terrorism initiatives. Criticized as too vague to be useful to the public, it quickly became the butt of late-night talk show jokes.

“The old Bush color-coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared,” said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Under that system, green signaled a low danger of attack rising through the spectrum to red, which signified a severe threat. Since the outset, the nation has never been below the third threat level, yellow - an “elevated or significant” risk of terrorist attack.

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