Living in a Code Yellow World

In the 1980s, handgun expert Jeff Cooper invented something called the Color Code to describe what he called the “combat mind-set.” Here is his summary:

In White you are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.

In Yellow you bring yourself to the understanding that your life may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it.

In Orange you have determined upon a specific adversary and are prepared to take action which may result in his death, but you are not in a lethal mode.

In Red you are in a lethal mode and will shoot if circumstances warrant.

Cooper talked about remaining in Code Yellow over time, but he didn’t write about its psychological toll. It’s significant. Our brains can’t be on that alert level constantly. We need downtime. We need to relax. This is why we have friends around whom we can let our guard down and homes where we can close our doors to outsiders. We only want to visit Yellowland occasionally.

Since 9/11, the US has increasingly become Yellowland, a place where we assume danger is imminent. It’s damaging to us individually and as a society.

I don’t mean to minimize actual danger. Some people really do live in a Code Yellow world, due to the failures of government in their home countries. Even there, we know how hard it is for them to maintain a constant level of alertness in the face of constant danger. Psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote about this, making safety a basic level in his hierarchy of needs. A lack of safety makes people anxious and tense, and the long term effects are debilitating.

The same effects occur when we believe we’re living in an unsafe situation even if we’re not. The psychological term for this is hypervigilance. Hypervigilance in the face of imagined danger causes stress and anxiety. This, in turn, alters how your hippocampus functions, and causes an excess of cortisol in your body. Now cortisol is great in small and infrequent doses, and helps you run away from tigers. But it destroys your brain and body if you marinate in it for extended periods of time.

Not only does trying to live in Yellowland harm you physically, it changes how you interact with your environment and it impairs your judgment. You forget what’s normal and start seeing the enemy everywhere. Terrorism actually relies on this kind of reaction to succeed.

Here’s an example from The Washington Post last year: “I was taking pictures of my daughters. A stranger thought I was exploiting them.” A father wrote about his run-in with an off-duty DHS agent, who interpreted an innocent family photoshoot as something nefarious and proceeded to harass and lecture the family. That the parents were white and the daughters Asian added a racist element to the encounter.

At the time, people wrote about this as an example of worst-case thinking, saying that as a DHS agent, “he’s paid to suspect the worst at all times and butt in.” While, yes, it was a “disturbing reminder of how the mantra of ‘see something, say something’ has muddied the waters of what constitutes suspicious activity,” I think there’s a deeper story here. The agent is trying to live his life in Yellowland, and it caused him to see predators where there weren’t any.

I call these “movie-plot threats,” scenarios that would make great action movies but that are implausible in real life. Yellowland is filled with them.

Last December former DHS director Tom Ridge wrote about the security risks of building a NFL stadium near the Los Angeles Airport. His report is full of movie-plot threats, including terrorists shooting down a plane and crashing it into a stadium. His conclusion, that it is simply too dangerous to build a sports stadium within a few miles of the airport, is absurd. He’s been living too long in Yellowland.

That our brains aren’t built to live in Yellowland makes sense, because actual attacks are rare. The person walking towards you on the street isn’t an attacker. The person doing something unexpected over there isn’t a terrorist. Crashing an airplane into a sports stadium is more suitable to a Die Hard movie than real life. And the white man taking pictures of two Asian teenagers on a ferry isn’t a sex slaver. (I mean, really?)

Most of us, that DHS agent included, are complete amateurs at knowing the difference between something benign and something that’s actually dangerous. Combine this with the rarity of attacks, and you end up with an overwhelming number of false alarms. This is the ultimate problem with programs like “see something, say something.” They waste an enormous amount of time and money.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in a Code White society are much better served acting like we do. This is something we need to learn at all levels, from our personal interactions to our national policy. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, many of our counterterrorism policies have helped convince people they’re not safe, and that they need to be in a constant state of readiness. We need our leaders to lead us out of Yellowland, not to perpetuate it.

This essay previously appeared on

EDITED TO ADD (9/25): UK student reading book on terrorism is accused of being a terrorist. He was reading the book for a class he was taking. I’ll let you guess his ethnicity.

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 11:39 AM89 Comments


Louis Nadeau September 24, 2015 12:16 PM

Reading that article reminded me of basic phishing training. That kind of “awareness” training tries to bring people in Yellowland, but the fact that people are most comfortable in the White, they revert back to that mode and then phishing them is easier… If I wear my security professional hat, that makes me sad. If I wear my human hat, I think I prefer to live in a world where people are not hurt psychologically by staying in Yellowland all the time but get phished once in a while…

rgaff September 24, 2015 12:17 PM


“We need our leaders to lead us out of Yellowland, not to perpetuate it.”

As long as perpetuating it is what gets them funding for their pet projects and friends… we will always be in yellowland. As far as I can tell, almost no “leaders” care one iota about what’s good for society or future generations, just how they can milk it in their lifetime. Any possible exceptions are so rare they are hard to believe.

rgaff September 24, 2015 12:21 PM

FYI our own leaders “perpetuating Yellowland” is what I call, our own leaders themselves being terrorists… i.e. THEY are the ones terrorizing society (regardless of how much fingerpointing or handwaving they may be doing).

Ed Bear September 24, 2015 12:40 PM

The problem with asking leaders “to lead us out of Yellowland” is that Yellowland increases their power and prestige. There is zero or negative incentive for them to do that.

Alex September 24, 2015 12:40 PM

Having lived two thirds of my life in a yellowland country and then moving to the U.S. I can tell you that it made wonders for my mental health. This is one reason I do not want this society to become paranoid, especially because we are not facing any real threats.

Martin Ewing September 24, 2015 12:42 PM

I’d be interested in your take on computer security vs the color analysis. If you’re in computer security, surely you can’t be “white”. But how to be “realistically” Yellow without blowing up threats and getting hyper about 32 character passwords? Is compsec bad for mental health? Etc.

Steve September 24, 2015 12:45 PM

I can’t help but think of all the “Code Yellow” NSA snooping scenarios I see in this blog and in the comments thereof.

How many of us create our own “movie plot” scenarios of Big Brother peeking over our shoulder when we’re frankly just not that interesting.

Just sayin’.

rgaff September 24, 2015 12:49 PM

@ Steve

Since we’re totally not that interesting, then surely you won’t mind universal strong encryption and robust laws supporting private communication and ownership of private data, that even the NSA and President are forced to follow?

Daniel September 24, 2015 12:55 PM

@How many of us create our own “movie plot” scenarios of Big Brother peeking over our shoulder when we’re frankly just not that interesting.


I’d argue that there are important downsides to being in Yellowland that Bruce does not discuss. One on these is the fact that some people really do have a need to be in Redland but it’s difficult for such people to get the knowledge they need for protection when all the advice is directed at people living in the Yellow. I’ve seen many times where people think they are protecting themselves from a red attack by following yellow advice–it is a perfect example of the availability cognitive bias at work.

JdL September 24, 2015 1:17 PM

Thoughtful and on target. My only quibble would be that the author is letting Jeff Cooper dictate the categories of awareness, and IMHO Mr. Cooper’s divisions ignore the mental state we should actually cultivate in a mostly peaceful society. Let’s call it White Plus. Calm, but aware. Alarmed only when necessary, but never blindsided because of inattention.

ianf September 24, 2015 1:31 PM

As long as raising false Yellowland alarms IS NOT universally subjected to some kind of public accounting/ financial penalties/ social shaming, there will always be more incentives to “play,” than to abstain from playing, such “threat games.”

A case in point: what was that recent Texan Ahmed-brouhaha, other than an instance of one such false prëemptive alarm? Yet none of the ADULTS involved, at school or among the responding police, who overreacted in the presence of a toy object, will ever be held to account for the stupid furor they caused. Instead, the public disruption and the harm done to the teen is being “overcompensated” by other, directly uninvolved, adults in a form that can only be called high PR-value fake affirmative action. Because that’s the least that that misunderstood “inventor-wannabe” has earned.

remo September 24, 2015 1:45 PM

Your reaction to @Steve’s comment is a good example of the negative effects of a constant state of Yellowland thinking. I doubt Steve is arguing against all of the good things in your post. However, there have been plenty of more extraordinary comments made on this site about inventive security protocols for the everyday person, when the large majority of people may never have a state-level attacker targeting them.

I’m in aggreement with @Martin, I’d like to see what @Bruce and others think about the balance between the need for Yellowland (or higher) thinking in compsec and living in a Code White society.

albert September 24, 2015 1:50 PM

Keep in mind, Cooper is essentially teaching gun safety, through mental discipline. These color codes are sensible in that context, but don’t make sense in others. Unless we carry firearms, few of us are in a position to apply lethal force.

The DHS is promoting a culture of paranoia which is both ludicrous and self-serving. They use any means possible to achieve that goal. Folks have more to fear from the police (who totally buy into that BS), than from any sort of terrorist attack. If anyone needs Coopers training, it’s LE.

As for Ridge, I gotta ask, where do they get these douchebags? He’s either an idiot, or a spokesperson for idiots.

“…terrorists shooting down a plane and crashing it into a stadium…”

I suggest Mr. Ridge go back and read the classified information on 911, and tell us exactly how, today, terrorists could accomplish that.

Somehow, the idea of ‘movie plot’ scenarios fits right in with the whole ‘security theater’ thing.
. .. . .. oh

LessThanObvious September 24, 2015 1:57 PM

Invoking Jeff Cooper to make a point that has nothing to do with his statement is disingenuous. Living in condition Yellow much of the time is being a realist. Your quote of it’s meaning resonates differently than I believe to be the intent.

The following is from The Carry Book: Minnesota Edition, 2011
Yellow: Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that “today could be the day I may have to defend myself”. You are simply aware that the world is a potentially unfriendly place and that you are prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.

K.S. September 24, 2015 2:19 PM

I tend to be naturally paranoid, and I recognize and admit this fact. The fact that society’s thinking is moving in my direction is undeniable, but from my point of view it is rather reasonable development. After all, given all the evidence that they ARE after you, how could you ignore the signs and NOT prepare for it?

Sure, there are some examples of people not doing paranoia correctly, but does it mean that the concept of paranoia is inherently flawed? For example, I prepare for natural disasters, but I do no prepare for a volcano eruption, as I don’t live anywhere near one.

Anonymous Cow September 24, 2015 2:20 PM

“…terrorists shooting down a plane and crashing it into a stadium…”

That’s more plausible today than hijacking the plane and then crashing it. Try that today and I’d bet the passengers would gang up on the hijackers; unlike before 9/11 when it was accepted to let the hijackers land and negotiate.

What isn’t plausible is shooting down an aircraft such that it crashes where you want it to.

Winter September 24, 2015 2:21 PM

“You are simply aware that the world is a potentially unfriendly place and that you are prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.”

But that is exactly what ramps up your cortisol: Unspecified threats. And chronic high cortisol is poisonous.

rgaff September 24, 2015 2:36 PM

@ remo

While many of our “leaders” are actually dead set against all the “good things” in my post, and many of the posters here who make fun of us who want to fix security problems in electronics are in the same mindset as those “leaders”…. I did recognize that Steve MIGHT be fine with the “good things” in my post, in which case, that’s fine.

However it is wrong to think that ONLY state-level people can and do easily attack people at will through our weak electronics, and it’s wrong to think that it’s right that state-level people do so as well. As time goes on, such attacks will get more and more common… so common electronics design and security practices NEED to keep improving, in order to keep it from becoming mayhem and anarchy in our future.

Finally I’d like to say that I am prone to exaggeration, and I know it, and I embrace it…. not out of fear though, but out of trying to get a reaction…. For example, when I tell brits how much they kiss the feet of the usa, I’m trying to get them to react by making sure they don’t do so any longer, rather than just merely insulting them. I’m trying to create a negative self fulfilling prophesy.

But I don’t always exaggerate, I let people figure out for themselves when I am and when I’m not 😉 For example, in Steve’s case, I’m hoping that he’ll either respond with showing he’s truly as stupid as our leaders are, or by showing that he doesn’t mind the “good things” in my post. Either way is fine by me, it shows what side he’s really on. And it gets people to think (as it did with you). If it makes people think, I’ve done my job, whether they agree with me or not.

Stuart Lynne September 24, 2015 2:39 PM

Co-incidentally (actually probably not quite) the NHL hockey season started up just last week.

And up here in the frozen north (Vancouver Canada) hockey patrons where introduced to a new feature for their hockey experience.

To get into the hockey stadium you must now pass through metal detectors.

From the news reports etc this is being required by the NHL league apparently from some US requirements.

The point being there (again going on the commentary) has never actually been a report of weapons (other than sticks on the ice) being used.

And as one pundit remarked if you really want to save fans from being hurt or killed get rid of the beer. Rowdy drunk fans do get injured and occasionally fall and kill themselves.

But as with all security theatre this is more about politicians (and equivalent in large organizations) looking like they are solving a problem that may (or may not) actually exist.

Definitely this is coming from people who live and have lived too long in a Code Yellow World.

Martin September 24, 2015 2:44 PM

Leaders always prefer code yellow or higher as it makes it much easier to justify expanding their budgets and scope of their control. Higher threat levels equals more personnel, more expenditure and more influence.

It is similar to the illegal drug regulations in the U.S.A. Strict drug regulations provides justification and funding for law enforcement and penal intuitions. (Not saying there should be a free-for-all, but a move towards rationality is clearly needed; e.g., why are there people in prison for possession of marijuana. Especially in light of the fact that those arresting the person with marijuana will, at the end of their work shift, possibly go home and knock back a few shots of whisky [alcohol].)

rgaff September 24, 2015 2:44 PM

@ Winter

“But that is exactly what ramps up your cortisol: Unspecified threats. And chronic high cortisol is poisonous.”

So does this mean that everyone who uses a “firewall” that comes with their OS or in their network router, has ramped up cortisol?

No. It’s just what everyone has to do, to fend off all the real threats that are everywhere online. If you have full logging on, you’ll see several attack attempts per minute. Dealing with this, and making network infrastructure stronger to deal with it hasn’t made everyone ill worldwide… Likewise, fixing our electronics to not be so weak and easily attacked at a deeper level will also not make everyone ill worldwide. We need to raise the bar on electronic security, not on people’s anxiety over it.

nyarlath September 24, 2015 2:45 PM

Interesting, and worrying. As a woman, I’m in the yellow mindset practically every time I’m out in the streets at night (which means most of the time in winter). I wish I wasn’t raised like this, or more accurately I wish I hadn’t had to be raised like this.

k14 September 24, 2015 2:56 PM

If you have the sense that someone’s aiming to up your cortisol on purpose, how would you find out who your troll is?

mark September 24, 2015 2:58 PM

For some reason, I was thinking about something similar to the WP story today. I’ve been talking to folks about my current visits to the folks my doctor refers to as physical terrorists (that’s PT, to you who know medical acronyms). I was picturing some moron overhearing, or spying on my email, and accusing me of consorting with terrorists.

My thought: guys, you are paid, on work time, to not have a sense of humor. Your powers do NOT include changing human nature so that none of us, on our time, can have a sense of humor.

   mark "the leg's slowly getting improving,
             thank you"

Daniel September 24, 2015 3:19 PM


Incoming story re false positive paradox.

I once spent several years of my life trying to convince several individuals prominent in the airline industry that the proper response to fatal airline accidents was nothing. My argument was that the actual incidence of fatal airline accidents was what one would call “extremely unusual events” on the order of one in 30 million in one flight. Since the real rate of fatal airline accidents was so low, it was better to spend money on devising safer systems rather than trying to fix the most recent flaw because what just happened was unlikely ever to happen again.

I got nowhere. The response I consistently got was while the logic might be sound the airlines had to be seen to be doing something, if for no other reason than marketing. No one would fly an airline that was seen to be lax on safety.

I’ve longed believed that much of the money spent on safety makes us less safe precisely because it is spent inefficiently, attacking the last bug rather than building robust systems. A point that is more extensively developed in this book.

The underlying problem is that safety isn’t so much mere math as it is cultural perception. Groups in general do a bad job of evaluating risk. The hysterics around the “Ebola scare” in the USA being only the most recent example.

Winter September 24, 2015 3:28 PM

“So does this mean that everyone who uses a “firewall” that comes with their OS or in their network router, has ramped up cortisol?”

Given that people set up firewalls and then forget about it, I don’t think so. I lock my doors, which seems to be common sense, but I do not worry about them.

I tend to really worry only when I do not know what to do.

LessThanObvious September 24, 2015 3:32 PM


Being prepared isn’t the same as being stressed or afraid. I keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen so I’m prepared for a fire. I don’t lay awake and think about the possibility of needing it.

The same goes for defense of life, liberty and property. I may give some forethought to what means I have to defend myself and others, but it doesn’t cause me to carry fear or anxiety. Anxiety and adrenaline response should be reserved for times when there is a greater threat, reserved for the situations for which evolution gave us the instinct for fear, which should be exceedingly rare.

albert September 24, 2015 3:33 PM

@Anonymous Cow,

“…What isn’t plausible is shooting down an aircraft such that it crashes where you want it to….”

True, but I wonder about the plausibility of even ‘shooting down’ an aircraft here in the US. High powered rifles are readily available. If that’s all it takes (as opposed to SAMs and RPGs) why aren’t planes falling out of the sky? Is that due to the sterling work of the IC/LE? Or is there little likelihood of that ever happening? The only hope of hitting such a moving target is on takeoff and landing, and then finding the most dangerous area. Speeds range from 130 to 150 mph(~190 to 220 feet/sec). Quite a challenge, I’d say. I don’t think an expert sniper could do it.

Is it scare tactics? Does the DHS really think it’s plausible? Have studies been done (you can bet the military has)? Is there another, more mundane, reason to stop the stadium construction? Where are the conspiracy theorists when you need ’em?

. .. . .. oh

Winter September 24, 2015 3:50 PM

“Being prepared isn’t the same as being stressed or afraid.”

But code yellow is constant thinking about danger.

Code white is, lock your door and forget about it.

Code yellow is to worry the rest of the day about the quality of your locks.

Anon Y. Mouse September 24, 2015 3:54 PM

Everyone is so terrified of making a Type II error (false negative) that
they’ve gone overboard in making Type I errors (false positive).

Apart from the Military-Industrial Security FUD complex, this attitude has
spread widely to anything and everything having to do with children. All
men are child predators, especially anyone driving a white van. Neighbors
call Child Protective Services when they see children playing unsupervised
in their own, fenced yard. The police are called if a mother leaves her
ten-year-old in the car on a temperate day while she goes into a convenience
store for a few minutes. All this and more is well-documented on Lenore
Skenazy’s Free Range Kids blog (

This “worst first” thinking is directly attributable to the disasterous war
on terror.

Clive Robinson September 24, 2015 3:59 PM

@ Bruce,

Having been the victim of “street crime” several times in areas of London which the majority of those who live there consider safe, I can tell you the difference between white and yellow is often the difference between being in a vehicle or on foot.

The odd thing as I’ve said in the past is I’ve been on foot in orange/red areas both looking around over the sights of a gun and covertly and not come to harm, yet the only times I’ve come under attack are within a few miles of my front door…

Thus “thinking paranoid” is perhaps something most people don’t actually do enough of, simply because most travel in vehicles from front door to front door or from safe place to safe place.

In the armed forces they try to teach you to be vigilant but not hypervigilant, because it’s the difference between rationale tactical behaviour and spraying the area with lead each time the breeze blows the leaves around.

I was reminded of this difference yesterday when reading a newspaper article about Israeli soldiers killing a female student at a check point. According to eye witnesses it was because they shouted at her in Hebrew which she did not understand they fired –warning?– shots at her feet, she froze compleatly as they shouted at her further and then shot her several times for not doing what they were shouting at her…

This is the sort of thing we are heading towards in WASP nations because of Political FUD. I still count it as a miracle that nobody was shot in London after 7/7 when just about every police officer was carrying a loaded gun, most half asleep from the extra shifts, clearly not following basic gun handling drills. I should imagine many residents of Boston have similar feelings.

ianf September 24, 2015 4:03 PM

@ albert … suggests Mr. Ridge… reads the classified information on 2001/9/11, and tells us e.x.a.c.t.l.y h.o.w, today, terrorists could accomplish [shooting down an airliner into a stadium].

Never overestimate media appetite of a security official’s (and from an outfit that missed the 2001/9/11 plot ENTIRELY) to HOLLER in advance of future hypothetical threats.

Similarly, never underestimate creativity of psychopaths bent on avenging imaginary wrongs to come up with new, hitherto undiscovered, thus not explicitly defended against, “vectors of attack.” The fact that most of the DIY suicide bombings in the West have thus far been pretty failed affairs, doesn’t mean that some hot-head won’t soon come up with novel, possibly easier to replicate, mass-murder scenarios (plural).

BTW ?what? classified 2001/09/11 information? Even if Rigby KNEW HOW to conduct such a “Black Sunday“-like attack, he could not tell us about it for fear of abetting terrorism ;-))

albert September 24, 2015 4:14 PM

“…rather than trying to fix the most recent flaw because what just happened was unlikely ever to happen again…”

This is not reasoning, it’s ignoring the problem. No system is perfect and cannot be designed to be perfect. If you’re going to fly aircraft, you are going to have to address problems. The alternative is to ground the fleet. Play your numbers game in some less dangerous playground.
While most aircraft accidents are cause by human error (increasingly, human-computer interface problems), there are still design problems and failures that need to be addressed. Aircraft manufacturers and airlines are loath to spend money unless force to by the FAA. Major design flaws have resulted in hundreds of deaths, all because of foot-dragging by the FAA. Some of these problems can ‘lie dormant’ for years, then strike. For some reason, aircraft disasters seem more important than, for example, automotive ones, most of which are known, but ignored. Aircraft manufacturers and airlines usually respond when the evidence is revealed, but not always in a timely manner. Example: educating pilots about a rare (but potentially deadly) rudder control valve problem, rather than immediately redesigning and replacing the valves. The problem wasn’t solved immediately, but at least pilots knew how to safely deal with it. Auto companies just keep quiet. Mechanical, electrical, and computer problems don’t go away; they need to be investigated and corrected. That is money well spent.

. .. . .. oh

Next time you fly, thank God for the NTSB, a (gasp!) government agency that’s been doing fine work for decades, with hardly any credit or praise.

AJWM September 24, 2015 4:20 PM

White/yellow isn’t nuanced enough with regard to everyday threats. There’s a long way between being “unprepared and unready to take lethal action” and being totally off-guard.

I don’t have to take lethal action to avoid clicking on a phishing link in an email, or to watch for traffic when crossing the street, or being aware of what other vehicles are doing while I’m driving. Neither can I be totally oblivious to the possibilities.

In the “your life may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it” of yellow, doing something about it constitutes being ready to kill someone (you’re just not sure who, if anyone, yet). Being in yellow is like being in a combat zone, but not an active firefight.

Being in white doesn’t mean you can totally forget about threats altogether — you still lock, or at least close, your doors, cook your food, watch when crossing the street, and don’t click those random email links — it just means you delegate a lot of that threat awareness to background routines, it’s not something you’re focussing on unless and until something raises a flag.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with coming up with wost-case scenarios (like crashing a plane into a sports stadium) when doing threat analysis, so long as you also crunch the numbers to assess the likelihood of that risk. Personally I wouldn’t want an NFL stadium near a major airport, not because of any terrorism risk, but because of what it would do to traffic patterns — I’d hate to be trying to get to the airport for a flight in the few hours before a game.

ianf September 24, 2015 4:23 PM

@ Clive … counts it as a miracle that nobody was shot in London after 2005/7/7 when just about every police officer was carrying a loaded gun

Alas, Jean Charles de Menezes was gunned down in the Tube 2 weeks post the London bombings (and a day after the failed copycat attempts) by trigger-happy police doing (at last!) their trigger-happy things. That it happened in the course of a “gumshoe investigation,” and not by some momentaneous happenstance, doesn’t change the outcome.

Daniel September 24, 2015 4:49 PM


Because the dead bodies you do see are more important than the dead bodies you don’t see because they happen on someone else’s watch.

The fact is that there is a limited amount of money. The fact is that people who are in power choose how to spend it. In hindsight, I think it was naive of me to think that such people would spend money in ways that did not personally reflect well on them in the short-term.

But you are correct. My response does ignore the problem. Because sometimes ignoring the problem is the best thing we can do…that’s exactly the point of the false positive paradox.

pf September 24, 2015 4:59 PM

Equating Cooper’s “code yellow” with a stressful state of fear or concern looks wrong to me. I don’t have training with weapons, so I can’t draw from direct experience, but I can say that there is a state of situational awareness that doesn’t involve cortisol or adrenaline.

It’s actually kind of relaxing to focus your attention on your immediate situation. This comes up in sports, or just walking down a busy city street: giving these things your full and undivided attention is advisable, but it’s a long way from “hypervigilance”. A “normal” state of mind splits attention between surroundings and internal trains of thought.

Wikipedia mentions Cooper again under shooting technique, claiming:

To promote situational awareness, Cooper endorsed what is known as the “Dollar Club” – Gunsite “family members” were expected to be members. When two members of the Dollar Club met, the one who saw and recognized the other first could claim a dollar from the less-aware member.

By this standard, I’m usually “in white” as a pedestrian, at least in the suburbs, while a friend of mine is always “in yellow” (she notices acquaintances on the street from a distance even while driving, while I don’t recognize people until the stop and say something to me).

Also, an experienced motorcycle rider would normally be “code yellow” during a ride, and it’s a good way to unwind.

jdgalt September 24, 2015 5:05 PM

Every cop who is constantly walking around us in a “state of yellow” is a danger to the public, often a much greater danger than any opponent he will meet this year. And they in turn then force the public (especially members of groups that cops are likely to select as targets when they “go orange”, such as blacks) into a “state of yellow” ourselves. That isn’t keeping the peace, it’s destroying it.

This is exactly why we need to abolish agencies like TSA and DHS, and SWAT teams (or at least cut them back enough that they can only deploy in response to specific true threats), and why we need to re-train our police to start giving everyone the benefit of the doubt again. And it’s why the Bill of Rights was written to demand that police operate that way.

ianf September 24, 2015 6:20 PM

@ albert … wonders about the plausibility of even ‘shooting down’ an aircraft here in the US… is there little likelihood of that ever happening?

High-powered rifles do not pack enough punch to bring down an airliner, but a pair of well targeted, coordinated SAMs might “succeed”. Why a pair? To confuse any deflecting heat flare-, or laser countermeasures. In fact, there has been one recorded, though either aborted or unsuccessful, attempt of such a surface-to-air attack against an Israeli tourist charter aircraft in Kenya 2002. You can be sure, that approaches to runaways of those airports that serve El-Al scheduled flights are being watched in HUMINT and SIGINT fashion. Ride a bike along perimeter of such an Euro airport and note density of cameras, and other el-gizmos etc that are there for a reason ours not to reason why. (YUSMMV)

Sancho_P September 24, 2015 6:43 PM

I think @Bruce just used Jeff Cooper’s color code as a drastic metaphor.
“Life threatening danger” contributes, but is not the main part of our rising threat level in the western world.

The main driver is our economy paradigm of “exponential growth in limited environment”.
Awareness (yellow) isn’t enough, alert is required (no minute without mobile, social media, control, surveillance, …) if you want to be first, better, faster.
So you won’t find any person in or close to the group of “the powers” in whiteland, they are in red all the time and don’t realize it.
Therefore they wouldn’t understand what @Bruce is talking about.

But code red for most of us “normalos” means paranoia because we were used to have a better life.

Ra September 24, 2015 6:49 PM

Thanks Bruce for this post. I can relate to this at a personal level. Lived in Colombia during the 80s and 90s (war on drugs + civil war); Yellow becomes your normal state. White is pretty much “being and idiot”.
Moved back to the States before 9/11 and it was odd to be on a place where you can go back to a more relaxed state.
I can see the difference now and the tendency of this country to move to an alert state and that feels like moving back to South America.

Bist September 24, 2015 7:04 PM

I hate being on alert all the time. Constantly running every single scenario involving my online actions through my head through every possible permutation I can think of and then trying to learn the surrounding societal contexts necessary for each and every one of them.

This is why I despise what both the NSA and what Snowden did. I was happy with my ignorance. I truly was. Now I’ve all but given up learning more InfoSec and the world is a much duller place. I fear to even imagine and go where my mind wants to; having grown up in the era of Google, I used to see Google search as an extension of my mind. It was hugely debillitating to me for quite a few months after the Snowden release. Right now the only time I can feel comfortable is if I avoid thoughts of learning more of the technical aspects of InfoSec.

ianf September 24, 2015 8:35 PM

Apt literary analogy:
                                “Inside [the Kripo building in Werderscher Markt] beyond the SS sentries and a creaky revolving door, a board announced the current state of terrorist alert. There were four codes, in ascending order of seriousness: green, blue, black and red. Today, as always, the alert was red.

                From “Fatherland” by Robert Harris (1992, UK, not same-name US author), an alt.historical novel taking place in 1964 Berlin, capital of WWII- victorious Nazi Third Reich, on the eve of Der Führer’s 75th birthday and first postwar détente visit by the American President Joseph (Sr.) Kennedy.

Maynard Brandon September 25, 2015 12:38 AM

I was a field artilleryman back in the seventies. Our howitzer could deliver a nuclear warhead that had more power than what was dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The guts of that warhead were the size of a couple of cans of Coke. Years later, I asked someone in a position to know, someone with a star on his shoulder, why no one had put a warhead like that in a diplomatic pouch and taken out Manhattan. The answer I received was “They tried but we caught them and stopped them.” I used to ride Amtrak from Boston to New York. Nobody checked the luggage when passengers got on in Boston and nobody check disembarking passengers in, say New Haven, to see if they collected all their luggage. Either terrorists are awfully stupid or we are awfully lucky, mathematical “or.”

We have all seen the disruption that can and has been caused by one whack job with a rifle – DC sniper, I-10 in AZ. How hard was the Nairobi mall massacre to pull off? How much damage could a guy with a stolen cement truck loaded with fuel oil and fertilizer do?

There are even “random” acts of violence like “Knockout King” and “polar bear hunting.”

Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. You are your own first line of defense and your own first responder.

Gerard van Vooren September 25, 2015 1:30 AM

@ Maynard Brandon,

I asked someone in a position to know, someone with a star on his shoulder, why no one
had put a warhead like that in a diplomatic pouch and taken out Manhattan. The answer I
received was “They tried but we caught them and stopped them.”

I used to believe in “they said” as well. Proof is the only thing what matters. “They” say a lot. I still remember a 4 star general who lied to congress. The proof proved he lied.

How much damage could a guy with a stolen cement truck loaded with fuel oil and
fertilizer do?

I guarantee you that a nut case can only do little damage compared to what governments can and will do. Haven’t you learned from the Bush administrations by now?

Clive Robinson September 25, 2015 3:21 AM

@ ianf,

Alas, Jean Charles de Menezes was gunned down in the Tube 2 weeks post the London bombings…

Yes he was, however I don’t think it was a case of fatigue from hypervigilance[1] giving rise to an over response panic reaction in the normal “startle” response, in the plain cloths officers on the ground. But far worse FUD issues to do with the command structure, intelligence gathering, unclear or ambiguous orders and significant failures in clear tactical leadership and planning. And as I noted at the time a “gungho attitude” in the armed police officers. Which was further displayed a little while later with the arrest of a group of suspects and “snipers measles” comments about the suspects made by fire arm officers overheard by a journalist.

From the little we know there was an extended period of “back and forth” radio traffic between the officers on the ground and the gold commander prior to a stop order being given. By which time Jean Charles had walked out of the place he lived, down several streets where he could have been safely intercepted –if he had been a suicid bomber– and into increasingly crowded areas. Finally the several minutes of entering a crouded tube station, going down onto a crowded platform and into a crowded carriage find a seat and sit down, with further time for the armed officers to get into position around him. The commander must have known that the radio link would have been lost on entering the underground station long prior to the officers on the gsound getting there, likewise if looking at a map it must have been clear from the route, Jean Charles was in all probability heading to the underground station.

[1] Though it could have been, I have my doubts. Due to the fact the Chief Police Officer of the Met was clearly and repeatedly misinformed and given false information as to what had happened at the time by his own people on the ground. And later with the way information was withheld or not allowed to come out in the subsequent investigations deliberatly providing to little information for anyone to analyse. As has been noted by some journalists those that made all the bad calls got rewarded with promotion etc, whilst those trying to get to the bottom of what went wrong did not fair anywhere near as well…

Muffin September 25, 2015 4:46 AM

“Yellowland”, that should be the title of your next book.

(Or perhaps “Living in Yellowland. The problem of FOO and what we can do about it”, if your publisher insists on the standard formula.)

Wesley Parish September 25, 2015 4:58 AM

@Stuart Lynne

Of course, sticks aren’t the only weapons on the arena. I know, from a few seasons as an Ice Hockey goalie, that pucks can be excruciatingly painful and leave your ears ringing if they hit you on the helmet. And then there’s the fists. I expect that in order to protect everybody, the Powers-That-Be will ban sticks, pucks, and fists in hockey matches … as you can never be too safe, can you?


Shooting down aircraft with a rifle is one of those Recreational Impossibilities that, like getting the Brantisvogon Civil Service to acknowledge a change
of address card, is usually left to lower forms of life. The only times it has actually worked, it has been due to a large team taking part in it, low-flying aircraft as during the Vietnam War, or potting it during landing or take-off. It’s more cost-effective to use a laser pointer – but again, that would work mostly during landing or take-off.


Most prey species don’t as a rule, operate in Code Yellow for more than a few moments a day. What they do do, is have a Code Yellow monitor running in the background, and assess each predator they see, for signs it’s feeling like lunching on them. Otherwise feeding is the most important thing for them, apart from mating season, and for feeding, you need to be somewhere in Code White. Predators for that matter also operate in code White except for Code Yellow moments when they notice something that may prey on them.

Since Code Yellow and redder shades have such a destructive effect on mental health, I think we can classify states that permit or encourage development of Code Yellow conditions for their citizens, to be guilty of systematic psychological abuse.

Ian September 25, 2015 6:07 AM

At the moment there is a series “Hunted” running on Channel 4 here in the UK. In it a number of people have to go on the run and evade their captors who have access to the surveillance cameras, ANPR systems, facial recognition and other systems used by the police and security services. The rapid descent into paranoia by the fugitives shown in this programme is a graphic illustration of the effects of living in a code yellow world.

Ollie Jones September 25, 2015 6:26 AM

A fine analysis. I would add just one thing. My experience with people in the central American nation of El Salvador teaches me most of them live at defcon Yellow or Orange all the time. I understand the same thing is true of people in some neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, and in other enclaves in the “developed” world. It’s evidently true in the various parts of western Asia and central America that are the sources of mass refugee migration.

The thing is, living this way is addictive. It’s really hard to kick the defcon habit. We sometimes call the habit post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s hard both individually and collectively. It seems that governments and police forces are just as much victims of this addiction as the mothers of teenage gangbangers in San Salvador.

bob September 25, 2015 7:31 AM


Disingenuous? How? Are you saying that living in a heightened sense of paranoia over the long term is not damaging? Do you have evidence that contradicts the evidence the Bruce posted? If so, please post it.

I’m sorry to hear that you live somewhere where you have to constantly be ready to defend yourself. Check the evidence posted. It will do you damage in the long term.

Justin September 25, 2015 9:21 AM

Thank you for the post, Bruce.

Code Yellow is unfortunately about as relaxed as I ever get, so I just have to enjoy it while it’s not any worse than that…

BoppingAround September 25, 2015 9:23 AM

I have always viewed ‘condition yellow’ as simply keeping an eye on what’s going
on around. Not seeing threats coming from everywhere or anything as crass. Just
being aware.

P. S. The preview button has disappeared again. Is this just me?

paul September 25, 2015 9:31 AM

Once again, basic statistics and probability. Before considering anything else, the odds that something lethal is going to happen to you today is well under 1 in 10,000. How do we know this? Because on average people live more than 30 years. That, not “omigosh something bad could happen at any second!!!!” should be our baseline. But our brains aren’t good at that kind of thing, because when they were first getting built,if you were aware of a threat at all, the odds were much higher that it would come to pass.

Joe September 25, 2015 12:30 PM

This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Cooper’s system and code yellow.

Code yellow is not a state of hypervigilance. It’s a relaxed state of general awareness of one’s surroundings. You should be in code yellow anytime you’re not in a trusted environment. It’s really no different than being an alert and attentive driver.

This is in direct opposition to code white, where you are completely unaware of your surroundings and unprepared to act: IE completely focused on your cell phone.

albert September 25, 2015 1:04 PM

Sniper rifle rounds are devastating within a small area, but finding that small area would be a crap shoot, in addition to actually hitting it. I believe it’s theoretically possible to bring her down, but highly unlikely to actually succeed. Then again, I’m not comfortable being shot at, in -any- situation.

The spectacular failure of the TSA in their recent ‘tests’ is either: 1. A call for more money, 2. An attempt to increase the ‘threat’ level, 3. A call to ‘come and get us if you can’…..
From a sensible security perspective, it make no sense to advertise -any- failures in security systems. In more totalitarian states, no information about security systems is ever made public.
I agree with your ‘false positive’ scenario, though. We -can- and -should- deal with technological safety issues. I believe we’re down to only ~30,000 auto accident deaths/year now, down from ~50,000 for decades. If we brought that down to a few hundred, we’d hear zip about it. Go figure.
How about Nerf Hockey with ‘Michelin Man’ padded suits? American football with those padded suits would be hilarious:)
There’s a very small likelihood of a terrorist attack on US soil. Statistics bear this out. It’s even smaller for a ‘Muslim’ terrorist group. Don’t forget to watch “Security Theatre” Fridays, at 9PM/8c, on I got my popcorn ready….
. .. . .. o

Brandioch Conner September 25, 2015 2:11 PM

@Maynard Brandon

Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. You are your own first line of defense and your own first responder.

They are out to “get” you. Being paranoid means believing that “they” are organized.

Either terrorists are awfully stupid or we are awfully lucky, mathematical “or.”

More likely that there just aren’t that many terrorists.

And even fewer that could operate wherever you live without being identified and captured.

And even fewer, fewer who have the technological skills to accomplish procuring/moving/detonating a nuke.

Which is why the “paranoid” part requires that “they” be organized.

Skeptical September 25, 2015 7:43 PM

In part to make a serious point, and in part for fun, I’m going to make a further deduction from the points made in this essay:

(1) Terrorists in a Western society will almost certainly be living a code Yellow/code Red world.

(2) Such individuals may be prone to seeing front & follow surveillance on every stroll, a video device in every shiny object, a too-curious question from someone just making small-talk.

And such people may be more prone to what is (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly) derided as security theatre than security experts.

To take this one step further, during the Cold War the United States built defense strategy around thr prospect of a supremely rational Soviet Union. Both there a number of voices who found fault with this approach, particularly Andrew Marshall, and they proposed actually understanding the mindset of the threat in order to develop the optimal strategy – and hence the investment into increasingly sophisticated long-range bombers in an age of ICBMs (for those interested, Soviets had a deeply institutional and cultural commitment to defending their airspace, to the point where they would spend huge sums of money to do so. Marshall suggessted therefore that, while the long-range bombers may not be the ideal weapon, it would cause the adversary to waste unafforable sums of money defending again it (that’s just one example).

So some of the security measuures that we deride as theater are aimed at those living in the a terrorist’s icy, debilitating grip of that world view.

In other words – a fair amount of anti-terrorism is is aimed at the particular weaknesses that terrorist operatives develop over the course of time, and not at the cool-head security researcher.

I’d suspect that the measures to defect more “rational” and sophisticated attempts are the measure that are habitually referred to as “what you don’t see.”

rgaff September 25, 2015 9:05 PM

@ Skeptical

I really like your example. It’s awesome.

However, your conclusion that our government is only behaving irrationally because they have a very good hidden agenda for doing so, and that all their far more rational stuff is just “secret” that’s why it’s so hard to find any…. doesn’t really hold water.

Robert September 26, 2015 11:21 AM

Bruce, the people you’re talking about are more in condition Orange than Yellow. Yellow just means being aware of your surroundings and of the possibility of danger. For example, when driving you’re aware of the existence of other cars and the possibility that one of them might do something stupid and put you at risk.

Orange is when a specific threat, or potential threat, has been detected and you prepare to react. To extend the driving analogy, this would be a car in another lane that’s weaving in its lane or otherwise acting oddly.

Yellow, in short, is being aware that threats exist in the world. Orange is thinking that that thing right there could be a threat. Living in Orangeland is what you’re talking about, not Yellowland.

A more detailed description:

Mike September 26, 2015 2:03 PM

I’ll echo what Robert & others have mentioned: the individuals envisioning Die Hard plots are not in condition Yellow, they are experiencing paranoia that is pushing them into condition Orange (or Red) without sufficient reason.

Being in condition Yellow is just a state of mental awareness. It’s not “hypervigilance.” Jeff Cooper stated that the only way someone will prevail when attacked in condition White is through luck or because of the ineptitude of the attacker. Clearly we don’t want our national security agencies living in condition White.

Being in condition Yellow simply means acknowledging that “there are threats out there that might could harm me today” and therefore paying attention to your surroundings and being present in the moment. It could mean being conscious of wild animal movements while out hiking in case one attacks. Or being conscious of other people’s behavior on public transit instead of burying your nose in your phone in case someone becomes tries to steal your bag. Jeff Cooper explicitly stated that it’s possible to remain in condition Yellow for extended periods of time without being stressed or fatigued. Condition Yellow doesn’t mean envisioning Die Hard situations everywhere you go, nor searching for threats in every nook & cranny without specific reason.

The behaviors described in this post are indicative of paranoia which then leads to erroneously identifying specific threats and taking action, thereby escalating to condition Orange or Red (where it is stressful to remain for extended periods.)

lurker September 26, 2015 2:23 PM

Joe is right. Bruce and many of the rest of you fundamentally misunderstand Copper’s color codes. “Locking your doors” is a condition yellow task. Leaving them unlocked (or forgetting to lock them) is a sign of condition white.

white- unaware
yellow- mentally and physically prepared to respond to a threat if/when it appears
orange- having identified a possible threat, preparing to respond to that threat.
red- in the act of responding.

Harold September 26, 2015 2:35 PM

From the Colonel’s writings

“Considering the principles of personal defense, we have long since come up with the Color Code. This has met with surprising success in debriefings throughout the world. The Color Code, as we preach it, runs white, yellow, orange, and red, and is a means of setting one’s mind into the proper condition when exercising lethal violence, and is not as easy as I had thought at first. There is a problem in that some students insist upon confusing the appropriate color with the amount of danger evident in the situation. As I have long taught, you are not in any color state because of the specific amount of danger you may be in, but rather in a mental state which enables you to take a difficult psychological step.” Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries Vol. 12, No. 9 July 2004

“I forget when I first dreamed up the color code, but it was a long time ago. I have been teaching it and preaching it, practically forever, but I never seem to have got it across! The color code is not a means of assessing danger or formulating a tactical solution. It is rather a psychological means of overcoming your innate reluctance to shoot a man down. Normal people have a natural and healthy mental block against delivering the irrevocable blow. This is good, but in a gunfight it may well get you killed. The color code enables you to change your state of mind by three steps, each of which enables you to overcome your mental block and take lifesaving action.” – Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries Vol. 6, No. 9 August, 1998

Sancho_P September 26, 2015 5:55 PM


Yup, @Skeptical often is hilarious when he tries to explaini their intelligence,
but I never know if he is serious too :-¿?

Doktor Jon September 26, 2015 6:02 PM

There is another fundamental problem with the concept of ‘See something, say something’, and that is most people who live in large cities in developed societies, nowadays tend to inhabit a world which is essentially “all about the me”.
It may to some extent be a generational thing, but so many people are sufficiently engrossed in playing with their smartphones, iPods, iPads, music players, taking selfies etc. as they walk down the street, apart from the increasing likelyhood that they may well get run over by not being aware of their surroundings ( saw an example of that today in London ), they could just as likely stroll past a person carrying a 12″ kitchen knife and not even notice it.
If we as a society took threat levels seriously, a large chunk of the population probably wouldn’t even bother to get out of bed in the morning, and yet any government that tries to reassure that everything is going to be all right, when the likelyhood is that it may well get worse, is unlikely to win friends or admirers whatever the future may hold.
It’s interesting to consider that if you do see something, and dare to say something, there is a greater than likely probability that nothing will actually happen, based on the assumption that doing something proactive may be far more odious than risking the probability of a nil outcome on the incumbents watch.
Undoubtedly living in Yellowland can give a somewhat jaundiced view of reality, but take away the colour and there’s absolutely no guarantee that things will actually be all white in the end.

Skeptical September 26, 2015 7:30 PM

@rgaff: Not sure what happened to my comment – looks like it was mangled via a combination of autocorrect and simple lack of attention on my part. But there’s enough grammatical coherency to convey the gist.

I don’t think it’s correct to assume ANY organization will act with perfect rationality, including the US Government. It is absolutely correct, in my view, to diagnose certain security measures as unwarranted, and to judge certain responses to terrorist threats to be unwise.

Indeed, frankly I think one of the biggest risks posed by ISIS is less in the magnitude of direct damage an attack would inflict and more in the potentially enormous response that would become politically necessary. From a strategic vantage, it would be a mistake for the US to become involved in another counterinsurgency effort in the Middle East. But a sufficiently spectacular attack linked to ISIS would very likely have that result.

However, we should apply the same realism in assessing anti-terrorist security measures. There was a post on this blog at one point regarding the good work of a federal customs agent in simply sensing something “off” about Ahmed Ressam, and having him selected for a search before allowing him into the US. As a result a terrorist attack on LAX was averted.

Security checkpoints, shows of force, etc., tend to make an already paranoid terrorist plotter even more nervous. He’ll probably wonder if he was spotted surveilling the target or appraising the security checkpoint; he’ll wonder if he was followed when he walked to next tube entrance to see if it had a similar checkpoint.

And that’s great. Make them uneasy, make them nervous, ratchet up their paranoia, make it incredibly difficult for them to think clearly about their planning. That’s when they do something stupid.

Justin September 26, 2015 8:00 PM

@ Skeptical

And that’s great. Make them uneasy, make them nervous, ratchet up their paranoia, make it incredibly difficult for them to think clearly about their planning. That’s when they do something stupid.

No, Skeptical, that’s not great to do that to innocent people who somehow get on some “terrorist” list because of racial, sex, gender profiling etc. If there is evidence to charge them with a crime, then do it, otherwise leave them alone. I’ve been falsely charged and harassed and falsely committed to mental hospitals for pre-crimes too many times to have any sympathy with your point of view. Leave us alone and respect our civil rights, including the right to freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.

I am ashamed and offended to be called a “citizen” of a country that does things like this to its subjects.

Nick P September 26, 2015 9:09 PM

@ Skeptical

“And that’s great. Make them uneasy, make them nervous, ratchet up their paranoia, make it incredibly difficult for them to think clearly about their planning. That’s when they do something stupid.”

Actually, most of that damage is done to innocent people who the security applies to. A whole country’s worth of false positives and maybes isn’t a good security approach. The Israeli model at airports is a good example of doing it right. The TSA model, failing GAO audits and groping kids, is not so good. You could say the same of much of what they’re doing with bulk activities.

Btw, Ahmed Ressam only got their attention due to suspicious behavior. Like the vast majority of false alarms. He got busted because he (a) was uncooperative and (b) had two different names on his ID, one of which was confirmed fake. So, as Bruce often says, the terrorists we bust are often incompetent and the kinds of people pre-9/11 security would catch. A smarter, careful one might have gotten through. Maybe even 19 of them. Ressam case tells us nothing except that cooperation on fake ID or passport checks is beneficial.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons September 27, 2015 12:16 AM

@ Justin

…a country that does things like this to its subjects.

That is the current state of affairs, twenty years ago I’d argue that there is an elite plutocracy but benign for the most part. Today, with a technocratic, pseudo-theocratic, crypto-fascist oligarchy, the dynastic expression of power is witness and speaks volumes to the health of our democratic republic (Bush, Clinton). You’ve have got to be kidding me–this is such a slap in the face, Adams’ nepotism cannot even compare to generations of the bifurcated “see previous description” oligarchy.

Technocratic, pseudo theocratic, crypto-fascist oligarchy–has a nice ring to it–rolls right off the tongue doesn’t it? I just couldn’t see how to add the necessary “ignoramus” to complete the description. Recent events by way of the state only confer truth to the above statement.

Wesley Parish September 27, 2015 2:37 AM

@Nick P

The Israeli model at airports is a good example of doing it right.

And the Israeli way of checkpoints and barriers and endless harassment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a good example of doing it suicidally badly.

Every sick person who is held up while needing urgent care, every pregnant woman who loses her child due to being forced to wait to get to hospital, every Palestinian who is shot for the horrendous crime of living while being Arab represents a whole list of others who will cheer to see the State of Israel dismantle itself in fraternal strife a la Yemen and Syria.

I’m not surprised that the US Congress relies on AIPAC bribes for re-election; I’m only surprised at how little is needed to stay bought. You’d think they’d have more self-respect.

Nick P September 27, 2015 12:24 PM

@ Wesley

“And the Israeli way of checkpoints and barriers and endless harassment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a good example of doing it suicidally badly. ”

I totally agree. So, I didn’t reference it. 😉

Schneier posted an example here of what they’ve done to those people. It was really, really hard to read. I wondered how a group could ever get past the mental effects of going through that for so long.

Kirk Parker September 27, 2015 7:34 PM

I wondered how a group could ever get past the mental effects of going through that for so long.

They could start by getting rid of the death-to-all-the-Jews leadership.

Kirk Parker September 27, 2015 7:36 PM


Correction: the person walking towards you on the street isn’t an attacker until he is. (I’m paraphrasing something Cooper’s here, btw.)


How hard was the Nairobi mall massacre to pull off?

Hard. Or at least tedious and expensive. They actually rented a shop in that mall to pre-position most of their weapons, etc, so it required $$$ (ok KSh), time, a decent back-story/fictional company, etc.


Best misuse of statistics so far! Congrats!

Your fallacy is assuming that risk is evenly distributed throughout those 30 years, or that we are unable to see and evaluate any variations in risk.

Both assumptions are quite untrue.

Clive Robinson September 27, 2015 9:11 PM

@ Kirk Parker,

They could start by getting rid of the death-to-all-the-Jews eadership.

I suggest you stop reading propaganda and start reading 20th Century history.

You will find that the State of Israel was founded on terrorism and propaganda and it was from those terrorist leaders came the statment that no jew would be safe as long as there were non jews living in what they considered greater Israel.

The simple fact is the political side of Israel learnt a lot from the German “National Socialist” party, not just about propaganda but also about making discriminatory legislation.

It’s fairly clear that from the Israeli Premier downwards that the Israeli Government have no morals about those non jews living in the occupied territories including many faiths. The video footage of the Israeli Premier lying about IDF attacks on UN compounds to the head of the UN, should be enough to make anyone stop and think “can such people be trusted to tell the truth?” Well as most journalists who take the time to investigate IDF claims find, what the IDF claim at the best of times is full of falsehoods. Oh and don’t think the IDF won’t kill and maim US citizens, or attack serving uniformed US military personnel not in Israeli teritory to try to cover up their groundless attacks on people that is just another form of ethnic cleansing, because they have already done it.

I’ll leave it to you to work out why many Western Newspapers print news in a pro-Israeli way. But it might open your eyes as to why we need better press regulation in WASP nations, and why we most likely will not get it.

Oh and please note I’m being very carefull to distinguish between the Israeli Government and parts of the IDF and the ordinary Israeli citizens, because the citizens are likewise on the receiving end of the propaganda as well…

But also have a serious think about what went on in Iraq post 9/11 the US & UK Government’s lied to the people of the US, UK and most of the rest of the world. Why because they wanted to wipe out another countries Government for what now appears to be “political favours” to both the Saudi and Israeli Governments.

So I can see plenty of reasons why the US Government stance on some of the political parties in the occupied areas is downright hypocritical. Further why many people throughout not just the middle east but into Europe, Africa, Asia and Russia think there can not be peace in the Middle East as long as the current Israeli Government stance exists in any form. For instance places like India see their own political future and existance seriously threatened by the existance of Israel in it’s current political form due to the effects it has on surrounding nations. Likewise nations in sub-Saharan Africa and most if not all of Europe from the South East with Turkish and mediterainian boarders all the way along the south to the Atlantic and northwards into the North West with the Nordic countries. The citizens of these nations are becoming more and more aware of the problems the Israeli Government causes for their safety and security, and as importantly also the part the US Government has had in it.

Kirk Parker September 29, 2015 12:05 AM


we need better press regulation

There is absolutely no possibility of us agreeing on this.

RonK September 29, 2015 12:29 AM

@ Clive

Uh, Clive, I certainly agree that one has to be skeptical about news reporting. But what exactly makes you think that news reports from the Palestinian side, or from those select Western reporters who are allowed to report from the Palestinian side, are more reliable than those from the Israeli side?

Clive Robinson September 29, 2015 4:38 AM

@ RonK,

… reporters who are allowed to report from the Palestinian side, are more reliable than those from the Israeli side?

Well, it’s a question of the fact checking where possible carried out by the reporters, but sometimes the IDF claims are so ludicrous and so not connected with the reality of news footage.

For instance dropping white phosphorus shells on areas with unknown to the IDF European reporters actually there recording footage, and the IDF claiming they were being fired at from the area and the reporters sound and film evidence indicating otherwise is a reasonable indicator. Other film evidence of the IDF shooting clearly unarmed civilians and protestors. Over the years little by little it can be shown that the IDF murder protestors, but if you go back far enough you will discover that Israeli attacked a US ship that happened to be an NSA listening post you can look it up in various books on the Internet and if your are ever in Israel they used to have a display in a museum about it. And as has been pointed out the Israelis by their own admission knew it was a US “technical ship” doing signals intelligence atleast three hours before they attacked it. As Dean Rusk, U.S. Secretary of State at the time of the attack, wrote:

    I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.

Further US Senators likewise did not believe it and resented that documentation was quit deliberately unavailable to them even though it had been promised they would receive it urgently…

As was noted several times later the then US President Johnson did his best to keep it covered up or play it down to the point of falsifing the number of dead and injured in later years. It’s been said in the past that he was thinking about “the jewish vote”. In more recent times others have said he was worried about Russia…

Various investigative authors have set the attack in the much wider scope of what Israel were doing at the time including James Blamford. On reading much of it you will be left with a question. The Israeli’s were at that point attacking unarmed civilians in what others have indicated was “ethnic cleansing”, they were putting out false information to the world, and a US “signals intelligence” vessel that would quickly disprove the Israeli propaganda appears on the scene and knowing this they then “accidently” attack several hours later as it is heading away from the conflict and very clearly well into international waters, not once but several times over an extended time by bombing with napalm from aircraft and shooting up and torpedoes. As others have pointed out maybe the Israelis did not want the intelligence of what they had been doing –war crimes– to get out…

tyr October 1, 2015 5:44 PM

@Clive Robinson

The 5th Fleet had a nuclear strike armed and on the way
to Cairo as a response to the USS Liberty incident. To
this day it looks like that was the Israeli plan. The
worst part of it was that the spooks were sailing into
a shooting warzone blithely assuming that being American
made them immune to third world squabbling. That is the
kind of moronic thinking that the IC routinely indulges
in. I seriously doubt that everyone in israel was in on
it but there are elements in their society who would
think such a thing is wonderful.

What I’m keeping an eye on is the unravelling of the
Saudi leadership under the pressures of a limit to the
oil profits. Nothing gets the attention of the elite
like losing a few dollars. Somebody has to get blamed.
It might be interesting to get an anti-hawk Saudi
leadership who drops the expansionist Wahhabist push
in favour of fiscal responsibility instead of wasting
money on excitements in the neighborhood.

ianf October 2, 2015 6:30 AM

@ tyr (apologies for stripping off ye beloved CR)

[…] The worst part of it was that the spooks were sailing into a shooting war zone blithely assuming that being American made them immune to third world squabbling. That is the kind of moronic thinking that the IC routinely indulges in.

    Quite, a.k.a. Triple-A: American Arrogance Abroad

I seriously doubt that everyone in israel was in on it but there are elements in their society who would think such a thing is wonderful.

What I’m keeping an eye on is the unravelling of the Saudi leadership under the pressures of a limit to the oil profits. […] It might be interesting to get an anti-hawk Saudi leadership that drops the expansionist Wahhabist push in favour of fiscal responsibility instead of wasting money on excitements in the neighborhood.

    A very tempting scenario, but, alas, a mirage of wishful thinking. Observe that the main cause of all inter-Arab strife is vying to be more ultra-orthodox than the next tribe. Perhaps the House of Saud knows a thing or two about the kind of (non-)constituents they lord over, and how to stay ahead in the game: by playing the fundamentalist conservatives, then taking vacations in Paris.
    Frankly, in my equally unrealistic scenario, the only way this ENEMA might ever get sorted, is when some revolutionary new sustainable energy source is developed, and DEPLOYED universally despite frantic & not so little dirty opposition from Big Oil companies & their American State Dept. lackeys in cahoots with “Our Arab Partners.” Divest the Saudis et al of their world-energy-supplier status, and they can go on slaughtering one another in the name of the prophet in “peace.”

[^*] couldn’t but note that the air attack was conducted by Iftach Spector, later the only participant in the 1981 Osirak raid who failed to hit his assigned targets.

Taz October 5, 2015 2:45 PM

One of your best posts.

We need to dismantle this mass of expensive/self important do gooders before it’s too late.

Everything since 9/11 has been “hyperventilating”. But once you have folks who profit from such mania – it’s hard to turn things off.

DanishHans October 11, 2015 6:54 AM

Your analysis hits the mark exactly Bruce, well done for putting it so succinctly, and for giving voice to what I’m sure many of us have been thinking for years.

Jerry Huang October 25, 2015 7:16 PM

Though late, I wish to point out yet again (as others have done it but seemed lost in the volume of agreeing comments) that Bruce misunderstood Cooper’s color code. The white/yellow/orange/red refers to a person’s mental state and is used by the person to graduate from each so that he/she will be able to overcome the natural instinct to avoid taking of life (to protect his own or loved ones even). The codes do not refer to the amount of danger one perceives to be around him – as the DHS color codes suggest. Hence, Bruce’s “yellowland” has no meaning in Cooper’s hierarchy.

As Col. Cooper said often, he didn’t own the codes but he did invent them. We should try to respect that. If we explicitly refer to his color codes, let’s use the correct semantics.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.