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The National Terror Advisory System is the Department of Homeland Security’s system for informing the public about trends in national security issues, as well as information about specific imminent threats to national security.

In 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did away with the confusing—and often alarming—color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System and replaced it with a simplified National Terror Advisory System (NTAS), which has two categories of alerts to inform the public about the credibility and level of potential threats to national security.

Since it was created, NTAS has not yet been used to issue alerts, because, according to DHS, the circumstances justifying an imminent threat warning have never arisen. In December 2015, the agency expanded the scope of the NTAS to include a third category, the NTAS Bulletin.

The Bulletin is a way for DHS to keep the public better informed about general trends in the field of counterterrorism, as well as to empower citizens to take appropriate precautions against potential threats that might not warrant a full-fledged alert.

NTAS divides its public advisories into these three categories:

Bulletin Elevated Alert Imminent Alert
Describes current developments or general trends regarding threats of terrorism Warns of a credible terrorist threat against the United States Warns of a credible, specific and impending terrorist threat against the United States

The system dovetails with the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, which encourages private citizens to be assertive in taking the initiative to communicate with local law enforcement if they encounter something suspicious. The NTAS, if used in a timely and informative manner, has the potential to create a consistent level of national security engagement by the general public.