New terror alert system goes into effect

(From let) Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, NY police chief Ray Kelly, Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano and N.Y. Rep. Peter King
(From let) Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, NY police chief Ray Kelly, Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano and N.Y. Rep. Peter King

Update: 12:10 p.m. ET

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced on Wednesday the implementation of a new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), which replaces the Bush-era color-coded warnings with two classifications.

Threats will now be characterized as either "elevated" - which warns of "a credible terrorist threat against the United States" - or "imminent" - which denotes a "credible, specific, and impending terrorist threat against the United States."

Napolitano has released a public guide outlining the new system, and has made available an example of what one such alert could look like.

In a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Napolitano said the new system aims to provide the public with useful and specific information in the face of a possible attack.

"The terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly over the past ten years, and in today's environment - more than ever - we know that the best security strategy is one that counts on the American public as a key partner in securing our country," she said. "The National Terrorism Advisory System, which was developed in close collaboration with our federal, state, local, tribal and private sector partners, will provide the American public with information about credible threats so that they can better protect themselves, their families, and their communities."

Under the new guidelines, DHS coordinates the dissemination of alerts in the event of a threat, and provides the public with a "concise summary of the potential threat" - including information such as "geographic region, mode of transportation, or critical infrastructure potentially affected by the threat, actions being taken to ensure public safety, as well as recommended steps that individuals, communities, business and governments can take to help prevent, mitigate or respond to a threat."

"Depending on the nature of the threat, alerts may be sent to law enforcement, distributed to affected areas of the private sector, or issued more broadly to the public through both official and social media channels," according to the DHS statement.

Effective immediately, the new system will replace the color-coded terrorist alerts implemented by the Bush administration in the months after 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The five-color system, which was often criticized for being vague and, by Napolitano's admission, "too often accompanied by little practical information," was scrapped after undergoing a review by a bipartisan DHS task force commissioned by Napolitano in 2009.