Loose Lips Sink Ships: Giving Terrorists Ideas : NPR Ombudsman A conversation about Al-Qaida raises questions about what should and shouldn't be said about possible terrorism targets.
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Loose Lips Sink Ships: Giving Terrorists Ideas

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A recent conversation on Talk of the Nation left some people asking whether some things are better left unsaid. Such as tips on how to terrorize America.

As part of the segment After No. 2 Operative's Death, Whither Al-Qaida?, guest host Rebecca Roberts read listener emails to terrorism experts Peter Bergen and Omar Ashour.

ROBERTS:... We have several emails from our listeners here... Louise(ph) says: It seems to me that al-Qaida and its associates understand the U.S. very poorly. Attacks on symbolic structures and the military only get Americans angry. Attacks on power stations, stockyards, water supplies, refineries and other infrastructure that serves personal needs could bring us to our knees in weeks or days. Are they sophisticated enough to realize that, and is something being done to address that possibility?

Peter Bergen?

BERGEN: I mean, al-Qaida central and its allies keep coming back to the same targets, which is Washington, New York and commercial aviation, maybe L.A. I mean, if they wanted, you know, there is no al-Qaida in Nashville, as the caller pointed out. But one way to really freak Americans out would be to attack some, say, a power plant in - or let's say a shopping mall in Nashville. But, you know, al-Qaida isn't - Nasab al-Azazi, who was one of the al-Qaida recruits who tried to blow up the Manhattan subway, he actually drove across the country from Denver to New York to do this.

If he had actually done something in Denver, it would have been much more - A, he would have been much less likely to be detected, and, B, you know, he would have freaked out a lot more people. But - so al-Qaida for these big attacks, they want to do symbolic targets. That is, you know, there are, you know, Fort Hoods and there are other kinds of people inspired by the ideology, but these are not the actual central organizations which remain very focus on bringing down an American plane, for instance.

Catherine Ross of Hammond, LA, said she was "shocked" and "appalled" by the statements.

"Unbelievable! I'm a liberal who believes in free speech but I take exception to the release of information that threatens national security. Today, NPR crossed the line by giving ideas to all the crazy terrorists, American and foreign," she wrote.

She has a point. What do you think?