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Homeland Security to issue terror alerts on Facebook, Twitter; nix color system

April 7, 2011 |  3:55 pm

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The federal government could soon replace the five-color terror-alert system with a new two-level warning protocol that would be distributed, in part, on Facebook and Twitter, according to a report.

The Department of Homeland Security said in January that the color-coded system was on its way out and that the new system -- which it then didn't offer much detail on -- would utilize the Internet to get alerts out to people.

150-hsas "The National Terrorism Advisory System alerts will be based on the nature of the threat: in some cases, alerts will be sent directly to law enforcement or affected areas of the private sector, while in others, alerts will be issued more broadly to the American people through both official and media channels — including a designated DHS webpage (www.dhs.gov/alerts), as well as social media channels including Facebook and via Twitter @NTASAlerts," Homeland Security said then.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also said in January that the new system will be clear and simple.

"When a credible threat develops that could impact the public, we will tell you and provide whatever information we can so that you know how to keep yourselves, your families and your communities safe," Napolitano said in a statement then.

The new system may end up being a new, simpler approach and only offer either an "elevated" or an "imminent" warning, according to a report from the Associated Press, which cited a copy of a Homeland Security proposal the news agency said it had obtained.

The AP said the new system could be in place by April 27 and that, at times, the alerts would be sent only to government officials but not the public if the government determines that publicizing a warning would jeopardize national intelligence.

Facebook and Twitter would be used to broadcast public alerts only after local, state and federal government personnel, "including the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and the White House," have been notified first, the report said.

"If the threat is considered serious enough, a Homeland Security official will call for a meeting of a special counterterrorism advisory board," the AP said. "That board would be expected to meet within 30 minutes of being called. If it's decided an alert is necessary, it would need to be issued within two hours."

The new two-tier alerts would also be given an expiration date, the report said.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security were not available to comment on the AP report, but agency spokeswoman Amy Kudwa told the AP, "The plan is not yet final, as we will continue to meet and exercise with our partners to finalize a plan that meets everyone's needs."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a Senate Homeland hearing Feb. 17. Credit: Michael Reynolds / EPA

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