In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the decision to lower the alert level was based in part on a recommendation from the U.S. intelligence community that “the number of indicators and warnings that led to raising the level have decreased and the heightened vulnerability associated with the Memorial Day holiday has passed.”
“The lowering of the threat level is not a signal to government, law enforcement or citizens that the danger of a terrorist attack has passed,” the statement said. “The U.S. intelligence community remains concerned that Al-Qaida is attempting to exploit our weaknesses and believes that the United States and its interests are still at a significant risk of terrorist attack.”
The alert had been at orange or “high” since May 20, an increase that Ridge attributed to information from U.S. intelligence agencies that al-Qaida has entered an “operational period” worldwide, which could include attacks in the U.S. as evidenced by recent bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
Yellow is the middle level on the five-stage color scale. The lowest two levels, green and blue, and the highest, red, or “severe,” have not been used since the system was implemented in March 2002.
The lowered risk level may allow some local authorities and state agencies, already burdened by budget shortfalls, to ease some heightened security measures put in place for the Memorial Day weekend. In his statement, Ridge encouraged the use of visible security measures as an important element in the domestic campaign against terrorism.
“Visible security does serve as a deterrent and for this reason and for the safety and security of our nation, we will continue to have security measures in place at federal facilities and other key areas of the country,” he said. “I encourage the nation’s governors, mayors and other local officials to remain vigilant during this period of elevated level of threat.”