WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ORANGE ALERTS? Anyone else remember these? Funny how we've only had one elevation of the national threat level since President Bush was re-elected, and how the last such alert based on "new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack" was lowered on November 10, 2004. Since then we've had a single alert, for the rail transportation sector after the London bombings (and which was a less panic-inducing than usual, as it came with a warning that there was "no specific, credible information suggesting an imminent attack here in the United States"). Is America really that much safer from al-Qaeda plots than it used to be? Or has the Department of Homeland Security simply changed the threshold it uses for issuing alerts? The latest news of disrupted plots hasn't been accompanied by any rises in the alert level, which makes me wonder.

--Garance Franke-Ruta