Doug Bedell — October 13, 2010, 10:14 am

Whether To Warn Or Not

Monitoring the nether world of terrorism and terrorist threats is truly a daunting challenge. When to issue warnings of heightened danger? That’s not necessarily an easy question.

We have last week’s travel alert by the U.S. State Department for Europe. So far, blessedly, it’s come to naught. And we’ve come upon a couple of blog posts saying, in effect, what did you expect? Last week’s “threat” supposedly originated in Germany, but the Germans themselves weren’t agitated. And Bruce Schneier writes that “Unless the State Department gets specific – e.g., ‘Don’t go to the Eiffel Tower tomorrow’ – information at that (vague) level of generality is completely meaningless.”

The problem with vague warnings, Schneier adds, is that “Without so much as lifting a finger, Osama Bin Laden disrupts our sense of security and well-being. At the same time, they put the U.S. government in the position of the boy who cried wolf.”

So what to do? We’re glad we don’t have to decide on whether or not to issue warnings. But read these two pieces for insight into the pressures involved.

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