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'Elevated' And 'Imminent' Will Replace Color-Coded Terror Alert Levels

The long-anticipated reworking of the nation's terror alert system gets its formal introduction today when Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announces that the five color codes used since the early years of the George W. Bush administration are being replaced by two phrases:

-- Elevated Threat: which "warns of a credible terrorist threat against the United States."

-- Imminent Threat: which "warns of a credible, specific, and impending terrorist threat against the United States."

According to a National Terrorism Advisory System Public Guide put together by Homeland Security, the basic difference between the two levels is that "elevated" applies when "we have no specific information about the timing or location" of a credible threat. "Imminent" applies when "we believe the threat is impending or very soon."

As has been previously reported, among the ways Homeland Security will spread the word about the threat levels will be via social media such as Facebook and .

As of this hour, Homeland Security says, "there are no current alerts."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.