January 24, 2011:
While al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations try and keep secret their plans, this is no longer practical. The terrorists are now a dispersed organization, their base areas and headquarters constantly attacked by increasingly effective counter-terror operations. So the terrorists have gone over to a more public form of leadership and planning. Thus the importance of the Internet, which most Islamic terrorists, and potential recruits and donors, have access to. While there are some hidden terrorist discussions on the Internet, public discussions there are more useful, because it attracts ideas and useful criticism from a wider number of terrorists and fans (people who agree, but are not gutsy enough to join in the violence).
Some of the topics discussed are sort of permanent. Calls for financial aid is one of them, but it waxes and wanes with the effectiveness of efforts to interfere with terror group fund raising or movement of money. Currently, there's more urgency in calls for cash. This might have something to do with another hot topic; the Indian Ocean. This body of water is the main communications route for terrorists (and cash) moving between Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Indonesia. The Pakistani port of Karachi is the gateway, for terrorists to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Air travel is avoided, because security is much tighter compared to moving via water. On the Internet, the discussions are often more revealing than the terrorists realize. Types of transport (which shipping companies, which types of ships) and security measures are discussed. But most of this stuff is already known by counter-terror agencies. Plus, Indian Ocean ship traffic is huge, especially the smaller craft (many of them wooden dhows) that are virtually impossible to police. However, technology and science have found ways to detect the terrorists among all this traffic, and how that is done is a hot topic of speculation on terrorist message boards and chat rooms.
Another interesting item discussed regularly has to do with who to hate, and attack. Shia Moslems, and not just those in Iran, are a favorite target. But so are all Moslem factions that do not adhere to the old school religious and cultural practices favored by al Qaeda and similar outfits. Then there is the obsession with infidels (non-Moslems). Christians are hated because they have always been neighbors and many real, or imagined, grievances have developed over the last 1,400 years. Jews are hated not just for Israel, but because they would not support Mohammed when Islam was being founded, and because Israel makes neighboring Moslem nations look bad (in terms of economics, education, scientific achievement and so on). Hindus are particularly disliked because they don't worship the same god (as Christians and Jews do) and fiercely, and successfully, resisted centuries of conversion efforts.