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Terror Alert Code System Under Scrutiny

Yellow alert, orange alert, red alert -- does the U.S. terror alert system help or simply confuse you?

That's the question before a congressional panel today. A House Government Reform subcommittee is asking whether the terror alert system needs to change.

One analyst with the Congressional Research Service (search) says the answer is clearly yes. Shawn Reese tells the panel that the current system increases general fear but doesn't give citizens any specifics or any advice for how to handle a potential threat.

But officials with the Department of Homeland Security (search) respond that they have to walk a fine line. They insist the public should be warned when threats reach a high level of concern, but they don't want to increase anxiety across the board.

One Homeland Security official says giving out more specifics could allow terrorists to change tactics.

General Patrick Hughes (searchsays there are specific threats against specific cities every day -- including today. But he says, not all of those threats rise to a level where the nation must be warned.