Entries in Terror Alerts (7)


New Terror Alert Warns of Insider Threat to Utilities

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sabotage by an insider at a major utility facility, including a chemical or oil refinery, could provide al Qaeda with its best opportunity for the kind of massive Sept. 11 anniversary attack Osama bin Laden was planning, according to U.S. officials.

A new terror alert from the Department of Homeland Security issued Tuesday, titled Insider Threat to Utilities, warns "violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions," and that "outsiders have attempted to solicit utility-sector employees" for damaging physical and cyber attacks.

"Based on the reliable reporting of previous incidents, we have high confidence in our judgment that insiders and their actions pose a significant threat to the infrastructure and information systems of U.S. facilities," the bulletin reads in part. "Past events and reporting also provide high confidence in our judgment that insider information on sites, infrastructure, networks, and personnel is valuable to our adversaries and may increase the impact of any attack on the utilities infrastructure."

In the materials recovered after the Navy SEAL operation that killed Osama bin Laden in May, officials found evidence bin Laden sought to repeat the carnage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on or around its 10-year anniversary.

"The only way you can actually kill the large scale number of Americans that [bin Laden] literally was calculating was through the use of this critical infrastructure," former DHS chief of staff Chad Sweet said.

After gaining access to such sites, causing mayhem could be relatively easy, according to former White House counter-terrorism advisor and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke.

"There are a lot of very sensitive facilities where someone can get a job on the inside, get access to a control room, flip a switch, which causes an electric power grid to short circuit, causes a pipeline to explode," Clarke said.

U.S. officials were stunned last year in Yemen with the arrest of an alleged American recruit to al Qaeda, Sharif Mobley, of New Jersey, who had been employed at five different U.S. nuclear power plants in and around Pennsylvania after successfully passing federal background checks.

"If someone is determined, and has the right access, they could do damage that would affect thousands of lives," Sweet said.

Al Qaeda has already put out the word in its online magazine, Inspire, for "brothers of ours who have specialized expertise and those who work in sensitive locations that would offer them unique opportunities to wreak havoc on the enemies of Allah."

As evidence of American infrastructure vulnerabilities, the alert specifically cites the attempted insider sabotage this April at a water treatment plant in Arizona.

Officials said then a disgruntled night shift worker took over the control room and tried to create a giant methane gas explosion.

"I am taking the plant hostage," the worker said in a recorded 911 call.

There was no tie to al Qaeda and his plot failed, but the incident was a reminder of how easily one insider could create potentially deadly mayhem.

"Facilities in the United States don't have to be attacked by terrorists with airplanes or bombs outside the facility," Clarke said.

Homeland Security officials told ABC News they know of no specific threat to any particular utility, and the bulletin issued Tuesday was part of an ongoing effort to update local law enforcement and private security on possible threats.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Emergency Alert System Being Unveiled for Cellphones

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government unveiled a major upgrade Tuesday of the national emergency alert system that will send warnings directly to cellphone users.

Similar to the alerts heard over the radio and on TV -- a loud, piercing sound followed by the words "This is a test of the national emergency alert system" -- the new alerts will be sent via text messages.  They will inform cellphone users of alerts issued by the president, emergencies like natural disasters that pose an imminent threat, and cases of child abductions or missing children.

Called the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), the expanded service will work on newer cellphones that contain a special chip.  The text messages will be free of charge and will be available to customers of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

The alerts are scheduled to be rolled out in New York and Washington, D.C. later this year, with a nationwide launch to follow by next spring.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Terror Alert System Announced, Color Codes Scrapped

Alex Wong/Getty Images (file)(WASHINGTON) -- A new, more specific method of informing the public of terror threats was introduced Wednesday.

The new system -- dubbed the National Terrorism Advisory System -- will take effect April 26, when the color-coded system is officially phased out and a two-tiered approach is implemented.

Why the change? Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the public should know what the threat is and how to react.

“These alerts are designed for when there is specific, credible information where people need factual content in order to know what they need to do, and how they protect their families, and how they can help us protect their community,” Napolitano said.
“Raising alerts without information, for some, did increase fear and we don't want people to live in fear,” Napolitano said.

The new method replaces the 9/11-inspired color-coded system.

“Say goodbye to orange,” Napolitano said. “That will be going away next week, and in its place will be something that, you know, provides the citizenry of this country with more information that they can use to meet the event of a specific credible threat or terrorist attack.”

The new system sets up two categories of threat level: elevated and imminent, neither of which applies today. Information will come via social media, and will indicate whether a threat is elevated or imminent. It will also include instructions for how the public can best stay safe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Terror Warning System Being Unveiled Wednesday

Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- The color-coded terror alert system will fade to black Wednesday when the Department of Homeland Security announces a new way to inform the public about terror threats.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says the new system will simply lay out what the threat is, who's being targeted and what people should do in response.

"We will implement a new system that's built on a clear and simple premise: when a threat develops that could impact you -- the public -- we will tell you," Napolitano said.  "We will provide whatever information we can so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities."

The new alerts will be labeled either elevated or imminent.  The new warning system, unlike the old one, will also have specified end dates when there is an alert.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Warns of Terror Threat in United Kingdom

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert Monday warning Americans of the "continuing high level of terrorist threat" in the United Kingdom.  This alert follows another recent terror alert issued previously by British authorities and continues the alert issued regarding Europe last October that is about to expire.  However, the travel alert issued Monday does not bear the same level of concern as the Europe warning.

The notice warns Americans in Britain to "maintain a high level of vigilance" until the alert expires April 30.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Color-Coded Terror Alerts Retired by Homeland Security 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced Thursday that the color-coded terrorism alert system will end within 90 days. It will be replaced, she said, with a new two-tiered system to provide clear and specific information about terrorist threats and actions people should take.

"Today I announce the end of the old system of color-coded alerts. In its place, we will implement a new system that's built on a clear and simple premise: When a threat develops that could impact you -- the public -- we will tell you," Napolitano said. "We will provide whatever information we can so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities."

Napolitano called the new threat warning method the National Terrorism Advisory System. Napolitano made the announcement in a speech at George Washington University, where she also urged students to consider a career with the department.

Napolitano said that the new system, unlike the old one, will have specified end dates when there is an alert. Napolitano said that was possible because of better intelligence collection and analysis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DHS to Scrap Color-Code Terror Alerts by April

Photo Courtesy - DHS dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano will announce that the much-maligned color-code threat level, formally called the Homeland Security Advisory System, will be replaced with a more specific public alert system, according to officials briefed on the issue.

In July 2009, DHS Secretary Napolitano ordered a 60-day review of the system used to inform the public of the terror threat environment to see if it needed to be altered. The task force appointed by Napolitano was split on whether to keep the current advisory system in place. A report prepared by the Task Force noted, "Task Force membership believes the color-code system has suffered from a lack of credibility and clarity leading to an erosion of public confidence such that it should be abandoned."

The system has not been raised or lowered since 2006 and officials say they have been better able to tailor security procedures without making changes to the color-code system. While DHS officials declined to comment on the changes, which will be detailed Thursday by the Secretary in a speech at the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, officials briefed on the issue say the new system will resemble terrorism alerts that are used by the United Kingdom.

The U.K. threat level system does not rely on colors but spans five levels from low -- meaning an attack is unlikely -- to critical -- indicating an attack is expected imminently. Currently the U.K. system is set at severe -- meaning that a terrorist attack is highly likely.

"The old color coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared. Each and every time the threat level was raised, very rarely did the public know the reason, how to proceed, or for how long to be on alert," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS). "I applaud the Secretary for her decision to create a common sense approach to alerting the public when credible threats arise."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio