Tuesday, June 18, 2002

J'accuse! Dennis Pluchinsky, a senior intelligence analyst with the Diplomatic Security Service, writes in a Washington Post article: "I accuse the media in the United States of treason." He makes a compelling case that the US media is doing all the homework a terrorist organization would need.
As a terrorism analyst, I am both appalled and confused by many of the post-9/11 articles published at home and abroad, in newspapers, news magazines and academic journals, as well as on the Internet.

Many of these articles have clearly identified for terrorist groups the country's vulnerabilities -- including our food supply, electrical grids, chemical plants, trucking industry, ports, borders, airports, special events and cruise ships. Some of these articles have been lengthy and have provided tactical details useful to terrorist groups. No terrorist group that I am aware of has the time and manpower to conduct this type of extensive research on a multitude of potential targets. Our news media, and certain think tankers and academicians, have done and continue to do the target vulnerability research for them.

Imagine that you are a supporter or sympathizer of a terrorist group and you have been tasked to identify and collect tactical information on potential U.S. targets. Consider some of the following headlines that have appeared since 9/11: "Private Plane Charters: One Way Around Air Security," "Suicidal Nuclear Threat Is Seen At Weapons Plants," "Priority Required for Protecting Utilities," "NRC Warns of Missing Radioactive Materials," "Freight Transport: Safe from Terror?" "Chemical Plants Are Feared As Targets," "America's Roads May Be Just As Vulnerable As Its Skies," "Study Assesses Risk of Attack on Chemical Plants," "Terror Risk Cited for Cargo Carried on Passenger Jets: 2 Reports List Security Gaps," and "Truck Terrorism Possible, U.S. Says: Investigation Finds Lack of Licensing Safeguards."
He goes on to cite a variety of historical evidence that terrorists can and do use the media (and now the Internet) to compile target and operational information and learn about the mistakes of their comrades. That is, if the press persists in reveling in details which lead to little value for the public, but a great deal of value for an enemy.
During World War II, there was a security slogan that went: "Loose lips sinks ships." Maybe the current security slogan should be: "Prolific pens propagate terrorist plots." The president and Congress should pass laws temporarily restricting the media from publishing any security information that can be used by our enemies.This was necessary during World War II, it is necessary now. These restrictions were backed by the American public during World War II, and I believe the public would support them now.

As for "treason," well, maybe that accusation against the media is not justified. Webster's dictionary defines treason as violation of allegiance toward one's country and lists one of its characteristics as "consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies." I know the media have not consciously and purposely aided al Qaeda. Therefore, J'accuse the media of lacking common sense. As a concerned terrorism analyst, I say the following to the media: You are making the jobs of terrorism analysts, intelligence officers and law enforcement officials very difficult. Help us, don't hinder us from defeating our enemies.
I think he's right.