Time to End the Fearmongering

President Obama has promised to bring change to the country, and to the government. In the latter, at least, he and his administration have taken a few fairly high-profile steps in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these things are important, and really do need to be done; if you wander the internet, you’ll find thousands of suggestions for wht “the next step” should be. Some are serious; others aren’t. Some are practical, some less so. What almost all of them have in common is that they are big and bold, and visible – understandable – to “the average American”. Yes, there’s real, substantial work to be done, but there’s little harm in pandering to the electorate by making largely symbolic acts designed to appeal to a broad mass of people.

With that in mind, I have a small, humble suggestion that will cost the government nothing, and would – I think – be well-received by most Americans:

Lower the freaking “National Threat Advisory” – the “Threat Level” – Mr. President. At a minimum, lower the aviation-sector threat level, down to the baseline “yellow”, or “elevated” level. The hype, the fearmongering, the FUD aren’t helping anything; in fact, if it’s having any effect whatsoever, it’s to erode confidence in DHS, the TSA, and ultimately the government at large. The heightened threat level – especially for aviation – is entirely out-of-proportion to the reasonable risks, real or perceived.

The “Threat Advisory” does not serve as a warning tool, does not inspire increased vigilance or awareness when uselessly elevated for months – years! – at a time. It’s like the boy who cried “wolf!”; nobody takes it seriously. Right now, it’s only practical purpose is to serve as an excuse for DHS and the intelligence community if, rather than when, another attack happens. It’s a CYA measure, and little more.

The “National Threat Advisory” isn’t the only “threat level” that needs modification, Mr. President. The Financial Services threat level is way out of whack:

Banks and financial institutions are the targets of electronic attack every single day, and yet their “cyber threat advisory” level is the lowest of any threat level in the country – green, or “low”. Not a single financial institution has been the target of any meaningful act of terrorism in years, yet the “physical threat advisory” is yellow, or “elevated”? That makes no sense whatsoever, Mr. President, none at all. I don’t know why the financial sector even has their own cyber threat level, or why it doesn’t mirror the national Cyber Alert Level, which today is a full level above the financial sector:

What gives, Mr. President? The financial sector – the largest and most persistent target of cyber attacks and exploits – is somehow magically immune from Quicktime vulnerabilities and the associated risks? I rather strongly doubt that, sir.

The previous Administration thrived on lies, misinformation, and fearmongering, Mr. President, and the ridiculous and arbitrary manipulation of “threat levels” for political ends was but one of their many unsavory activities. You promised change – change we Americans can see, change that affects us all; change we can believe in. You’ve made some steps in the right direction, but don’t stop now! Either bring logic and reason – and preferably transparency, as well – to the whole array of threat levels, and let them achieve their so-far unfulfilled potential, or eliminate them entirely. The choice is yours, Mr. President; the only bad action is no action all.

Published in: General, Security | on January 29th, 2009| Comments Off on Time to End the Fearmongering

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