They are warnings issued by government officials when they have considerable
suspicion that terrorists might strike at America or its allies in the near
Terror alerts generally come as a result of some compelling evidence provided
by U.S. intelligence agents that the danger is real and credible. White House
homeland security chief Tom Ridge has been the person who issues them
It is believed that terror alerts represent just the tip of the iceberg in
terms of current threats being made against the U.S. The Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) keeps a report called a "threat matrix" with up to 100 new
terrorist threats added every day. Only the most credible ones lead to a
nationwide alert — about one out of every 2,000.
Terror alerts are issued to local police before the public is informed. The
FBI sends the alerts along a nationwide computer network reaching more than
18,000 law enforcement agencies around the country.
Unfotunately, terror alerts tend to be vague. The government issued three
alerts between October 11 and December 3, none of which specified when, where
or how terrorists might strike.
While the alerts might not affect the routines of most Americans, they do
impact how business is carried out across the nation. Everything from tourist
attractions to airplane flight patterns can be affected as security personnel
brace for — and try to prevent — the worst.
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An MTV News Staff report
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