The hue and cry for vigilance sounds from sea to shining sea.

But its echoes, reverberating through the populace at times as paranoia or even cynicism, can already be heard.

Certainly, it is hard to fault the FBI for its early October warning about credible threats of another terrorist attack.

The information, however, was all but useless to the general population.

Dont fly? Stay out of tall buildings? Or live our normal lives?

The messages are confusing.

But had the FBI kept that information to itself, and an incident had occurred, the public rancor would have been devastating to the agency.

That was not the case last week with a warning about bridges in the Pacific Northwest.

The FBI informed state governors, but not the general public. California Gov. Gray Davis, however, elected to make the information known to the public at large.

Why the silence? Because the information didnt appear as credible to the FBI as previous threats.

At present, the American people are willing to extend the government an unlimited supply of get out of crying wolf free cards.

But that willingness may have its limits.

And when it runs out, the public may find little satisfaction.

We have no independent means of verifying whether the government is justified in issuing these warnings or not.

An already shaken public can be frightened by even the mere mention of the outside chance of a possibility of an attack.

When that fear works in favor of continued public support for government activities, and the prompt for that fear remains shrouded in mystery, questions arise.

Do we have reason to be suspect? We hope not.

But more than two months after Sept. 11, we know little more about the plot than we did in the days immediately following the attack.

And the origin of anthrax-tainted mail continues to elude our nations top cops.

Trust in the government is at an all-time high.

That trust deserves to be honored with the best information available, even if it is only an honest, We really dont know.