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Homeland Security

Chronology of Changes to the Homeland Security Advisory System

March 12, 2002 – Introduction of Homeland Security Advisory System At Yellow

  • From the White House: As part of a series of initiatives to improve coordination and communication among all levels of government and the American public in the fight against terrorism, President Bush signed Homeland Security Presidential Directive 3, creating the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS). The advisory system will be the foundation for building a comprehensive and effective communications structure for the dissemination of information regarding the risk of terrorist attacks to all levels of government and the American people.

September 10, 2002 – Raised from Yellow to Orange

  • From the White House: The U.S. intelligence community has received information, based on debriefings of a senior al Qaeda operative, of possible terrorists attacks timed to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the United States. Information indicates that al Qaeda cells have been established in several South Asian countries in order to conduct car-bomb and other attacks on U.S. facilities. These cells have been accumulating explosives since approximately January of 2002, this year, in preparation for these attacks.

September 24, 2002 – Lowered from Orange to Yellow

  • From the White House: Based on a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, as well as the passing of the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the disruption of potential terrorist operations in the United States and abroad, the Attorney General in consultation with the Homeland Security Council has made the decision to return the threat level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack, or yellow.

February 7, 2003 – Raised from Yellow to Orange

  • Recent Intelligence reports suggest that Al Qaida leaders have emphasized planning for attacks on apartment buildings, hotels, and other soft or lightly secured targets in the United States.

February 27, 2003 – Lowered from Orange to Yellow

  • Today's decision to lower the threat level was based on a careful review of how this specific intelligence has evolved and progressed over the past three weeks, as well as counter-terrorism actions we have taken to address specific aspects of the threat situation. Among the factors we considered was the passing of the time period in or around the end of the Hajj, a Muslim religious period ending mid-February 2003.

March 17, 2003 – Raised from Yellow to Orange

  • From the White House: The Intelligence Community believes that terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and Coalition targets worldwide in the event of a U.S led military campaign against Saddam Hussein. A large volume of reporting across a range of sources, some of which are highly reliable, indicates that Al-Qaida probably would attempt to launch terrorist attacks against U.S. interests claiming they were defending Muslims or the Iraqi people rather than Saddam Hussein’s regime.

April 16, 2003 – Lowered from Orange to Yellow

  • Following a review of intelligence and an assessment of threats by the intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Homeland Security Council, has made the decision to lower the threat advisory level to an elevated risk of terrorist attack, or "yellow" level.

May 20, 2003 – Raised from Yellow to Orange

  • In the wake of terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, intelligence reports indicate that terrorist may attempt attacks against targets in the United States.

May 30, 2003 – Lowered from Orange to Yellow

  • This decision is based upon a number of factors including a review of the intelligence and an assessment of the threats by the intelligence community. The U.S. intelligence community has also concluded that the number of indications and warnings that led to raising the level have decreased along with the heightened vulnerability associated with the Memorial Day Holiday.

December 21, 2003 – Raised from Yellow to Orange

  • The U.S. intelligence community has received a substantial increase in the volume of threat-related intelligence reports. These credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond.
  • From the White House

January 9, 2004 – Lowered from Orange to Yellow

  • Today, based on a careful review of the available intelligence, we have lowered the threat level to Yellow. We are still concerned about the continued threats, but the threat conditions that we’ve been following have diminished. With the passing of the holidays and many large gatherings that occurred during this time, we have made the decision to come down to Yellow.

August 1, 2004 – Raised from Yellow to Orange, specifically for the financial services sectors in New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

  • This afternoon, we do have new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack. As a result, today, the United States government is raising the threat level to Code Orange for the financial services sector in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

November 10, 2004 – Lowered from Orange to Yellow, for the financial services sectors in New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

  • Since the threat level was raised on August 1, 2004 state and local leaders as well as the private sector have worked hard to strengthen security in and around specific buildings and locations as well as throughout the financial services sector. Today there are permanent protective measures in place that did not exist before August 1.

July 7, 2005 – Raised from Yellow to Orange for mass transit

  •  In light of today's attacks in London, the United States government is raising the threat level from Code Yellow, or Elevated, to Code Orange, High; targeted only to the mass transit portion of the transportation sector — and I want to emphasize that — targeted only to the mass transit portion of the transportation sector. This includes regional and inner city passenger rail, subways, and metropolitan bus systems. We are also asking for increased vigilance throughout the transportation sector….Currently, the United States has no specific, credible information suggesting an imminent attack here in the United States.

August 12, 2005 – Lowered from Orange to Yellow for mass transit

  • Since raising the threat level for mass transit systems on July 7, the Department of Homeland Security has been working closely with our federal, state and local partners to develop and implement sustainable mass transit security measures tailored to the unique design of each region’s transit system. In light of these increased long-term measures, the Department is lowering the national threat level for the mass transit portion of the transportation sector from Code Orange, or "high," to Code Yellow, or "elevated."

August 10, 2006 – Raised from Yellow to Red for flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States; raised to Orange for all commercial aviation operating in or destined for the United States.

  • The United States government has raised the nation's threat level to our highest level of alert — Severe, or Red — for commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom and bound for the United States. We've made this adjustment to coordinate our alert level with that currently enforced in Britain. Second, as a precaution against any remaining threats out there, and we also want to take steps to prevent any would-be copycats who may be inspired to similar conduct. Accordingly we are raising the threat level, or we have raised the threat level, with respect to aviation in general, to High, or Orange. That will cover all in-bound international flights, other than flights from Great Britain, and it will cover all flights within the United States itself.

August 13, 2006 – Lowered from Red to Orange for flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States; remains at Orange for all domestic and international flights.

  • Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security announced an adjustment in the aviation threat level from RED to ORANGE for flights from the United Kingdom to the United States. There will not be any operational changes for domestic flights in the United States. Thus, the U.S. threat level remains at ORANGE, or "High," for all domestic and international flights. The ban on liquids and gels in carry on baggage remains in full effect.
April 20, 2011
  • Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announces the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS)—a robust terrorism advisory system that provides timely information to the public about credible terrorist threats and replaces the former color-coded alert system.

Last Published Date: September 5, 2013
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