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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Russia Adopts Color-Coded Terror Alert System

MOSCOW — Under intense pressure to ratchet up security measures after the terrorist attack Monday at the airport here, Russian lawmakers on Friday fast-tracked the introduction of a color-coded alert system similar to the one adopted by the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The decision came as the Obama administration scrapped its color-coded system, which officials said provided the public with little helpful information. In a speech on Thursday, the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, said the United States government would now identify threats as either “imminent” or “elevated,” explain the threat as fully as possible and suggest specific responses.

Russia began discussing a color-coded system months ago, after two suicide bombers exploded in Moscow’s subway, killing 40 people. After Monday’s attack at Domodedovo Airport, however, President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s angry response has focused almost exclusively on transportation security, and agents who he said act “entirely passively” as soon as the initial shock of an attack has passed.

“After a terrorist attack, in many cases, metal detectors were put in place at transport facilities,” he said. “They worked in the beginning, with everyone being sent through them, but then everything stopped, and people could come and go as they pleased.”

The Russian system would categorize threats as blue, yellow and red, in order of seriousness. The bill was presented Friday by the deputy director of the Federal Security Service, the domestic successor to the K.G.B., and the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, approved it in the first of three required readings.

Fred Burton, a counterterrorism expert at the global intelligence company Stratfor, said the United States had modeled its system on coded alerts used on military bases, which would then dictate security measures like vehicle searches. He said that it was “a knee-jerk reaction” and that it proved impossible to control how people would respond.

“Nobody really understands it,” he said. “I’ve been a counterterrorism agent, but I couldn’t tell you on any given day what color code you were in, because it doesn’t really mean anything.”

He said that France used such a system, and that Britain adopted one and then dropped it.

A video of Monday’s attack — which was saved on a remote server despite the demolition of the camera — revealed that the bomber, dressed in a black baseball cap and jacket, stood calmly in a crowd for about 15 minutes before detonating the explosives, keeping his left hand in his coat pocket the whole time. At times he appeared to be waiting for someone, a law enforcement official told the Interfax news agency on condition of anonymity.

Investigators concluded that the explosion was conducted at a predetermined time.

“The fact is that the terrorist had a chance to detonate the explosive device when the concentration of people around him would be at his maximum, however he did not do so,” the official said, adding that it appeared that the bomber worked alone. At least 35 people were killed.

After examining video from the airport’s arrivals hall, the police did not believe that a man named whose name was leaked to the news media as a suspect, Vitaly Razdobudko, was the bomber, a law enforcement official told the RIA-Novosti news agency. After Mr. Razdobudko’s name was leaked, his image — that of a young Slavic man who had embraced fundamentalist Islam — dominated news reports for a day and a half.

The video “clearly shows that it is a different person,” the official said.

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Russia adopts colour-coded system for terrorism

Russia adopts colour-coded terrorism warning

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