As with any profession, there is a wide range of talent, skills, and experience in the terrorist world ranging from incompetent amateurs to extremely dangerous, highly trained professionals. The highly trained professionals represent the greatest danger as seen in London, Spain, New York, Israel, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and countless other places that have suffered thousands of deaths from bombings, airplane attaches, poisonings and other attacks in recent years. These terrorists train for years developing weapons expertise and are skilled in espionage/counter-espionage.
At the other end of the spectrum are the amateur terrorists who try igniting their clothes or shoes while sitting in the middle of a crowded plane or more recently tried blowing up a car bomb at Times Square. The amateurs have poorly-laid plans and, when caught, often share plot details with the authorities. Amateurs read a few items on how to create bombs, either online or in printed material, possible get minimal training to develop their plans and rarely are connected well to the more professional terrorists.
An article this week in a widely-read magazine (I refuse to give the exact reference) provided details on the technical flaws in some of the recent failed terrorist attempts. The article pointed out which raw bomb materials were inappropriate or poorly selected, thus providing an excellent roadmap for the next amateur terrorist to develop an improved better strategy. As I read this article, I asked myself, "Who is benefiting from this article?" The author and magazine certainly benefited by boosting sales using a "sexy" topic. Clearly the professional terrorist is not going to learn anything from this article but the bumbling amateur who was possibly going to blow himself/herself up in a home laboratory has just received clear information on how to improve their terrorist plan.
Our country will continue to be open to attacks by terrorists for a long time. We cannot count on the attacks always coming from amateurs but we can at least minimize the amount of commercially motivated, well publicized terrorist lessons we gleefully provide. Amateurs can find enough information on how to make better bombs without the help of commercial magazines. Writers, editors and publishers who should consider more than their bottom line when selecting their material. Simply put, just because someone can write an article that sells doesn't mean they should write that article.
Follow Howard Steven Friedman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/howiefriedman