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Editorial: Terror alerts need specifics

Monday night an alert was issued for U.S. citizens to be on the lookout for a man of either Yemeni or Saudi decent and about a dozen people associated with him. It is good that citizens be alerted to possible trouble, but this warning is ridiculously vague. Such a warning serves only to fuel hostility toward people who look Middle Eastern, if people are even paying attention anymore after so many alerts have passed uneventfully. The government should be more responsible in issuing its warnings or possibly not even announce them at all.

One man has been identified as a suspect for a possible attack on the United States. He is a Yemeni national born in Saudi Arabia. His picture circulated in several newspapers and reports, but there is no specific evidence about what might be planned.Since Sept. 11, terrorist alerts have become almost routine and are getting to the point where they are ignored by many people. There have been bridge alerts, anthrax alerts and now this alert. It is true that a terrorist strike could occur, but to ask people to look for a dozen people who fit such a vague description is irresponsible.

People who think they are doing their national duty may wrongfully target individuals or groups because they may seem to be Yemeni or Saudi. Sept. 11 showed that many Americans can’t tell the difference between people of Middle Eastern descent, as evidenced by attacks on people from India, Israel and other nations not affiliated with the terrorists’ nationality or even their religion.

People should take the warnings and treat them seriously, but at the same time understand that they are not licenses to discriminate. The government should provide more information if it is available; otherwise, alerting police and other agencies around the nation privately may be a better solution than publicizing vague alerts such as Monday night’s.