A: We like to call this our "internal security rainbow." Both grownups and kids can understand it. Plus, it livens up the whole anti-terrorism effort. And, of course, it's spring.
Q: Would you mind going over the various colors?
A: Can do. The first level is green, and green is for go. Go mow the lawn, go spend money, go have a limeade. Green is all good. Now, blue is a little more dicey. It's worse than green, but not as bad as yellow. We like to think of it this way: "Green is for go, we blew up our foe. If Bin Laden's loose, then we've got the blues."
Q: But right now, we're still on yellow alert?
A: Correct. Yellow is more like "Caution. The light's about to turn red. Speed up, but don't hit any pedestrians."
Q: And red is the worst alert color there is?
A: Exactly. We have a little saying at the agency: "If we go to code red, there's a gun to our head. So get out the lead 'til Saddam Hussein's dead."
Q: And orange is ... .
A: Right up there between red and yellow.
Q: Okay. So, how will you let everyone know whatever color we're on at the moment?
A: We plan to decorate downtown office buildings - the same way they do for all the big holidays.
Q: But couldn't that get confusing? I mean, what if we're at code orange, but it's also St. Patrick's Day? And around Christmas time, you'd have red and green going on.
A: Well, there's certainly plenty of spectrum left; that's the beauty of this thing. You've got cornflower, burnt umber, sienna, goldenrod. Off the record, we're working with the Crayola people right now.
Q: But isn't this whole color-coding idea a little simplistic? I mean, this week it came out that a lot of our own airport-security screeners have criminal records.
A: Not a problem. Let's say all the screeners at O'Hare are convicted felons. That's probably an orange-yellow. But if it's just some head case with a few misdemeanors, then you're probably talking yellow-orange.
Q: So what if some guy tries to get on an airplane with explosives in his shoe on the very same day there's a false anthrax scare and the INS has certified two dead terrorists with visas?
A: I'd have to check. But my guess is, we'd go with pastels.
Q: And isn't this whole anti-terrorist campaign supposed to be secret? What if we don't want to tell the bad guys what level of alert we're on?
A: Easy as pie. Everyone watches these press conferences on C-SPAN, right? So let's say the attorney general just happens to show up one day wearing a red tie. A red tie, get it? A word to the wise ... if you know what I mean.
Q: What if he shows up wearing a striped tie, or one that's paisley?
A: In that case, I'd look for a pocket handkerchief.
Q: But wouldn't that still tip off the enemy?
A: Not necessarily. I think the North Koreans still broadcast in black and white.
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