Picture this: A man ducks under a broken fence at a water treatment facility in a small American town. He slips through an unlocked door and stands before a 20-ton tank of chlorine gas. No one bothers to ask him who he is or what he is doing there. If the chlorine tank were tampered with, the lives of more than 100,000 people in surrounding areas would be endangered.

Unfortunately, this scenario isn’t make-believe. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, officials called for tightened security at potential terrorist targets across the country. The nation was on edge. Then in early 2002, President Bush revealed that terrorists in Afghanistan already possessed detailed maps and plans of U.S. nuclear power plants and chemical facilities. Were we prepared for another attack? Carl Prine, a newspaper reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wanted to find out.

Prine decided to “think like a terrorist.” With a notebook and camera, he strolled, unannounced, into hundreds of water treatment plants, chemical facilities, and dockyards across the country. What he found was frightening: unlocked gates, unguarded toxic chemicals, and numerous opportunities for sabotage that would threaten millions of people.

Today Exposé launches its second season online with “Think Like a Terrorist: Part 1” a behind-the-scenes look at Prine’s investigation as he retraces his steps through the back alleys of industrial parks across the country. The broadcast premiere on PBS is this Friday. Check local listings.

>> Read Carl Prine’s original reporting in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

>> Stay tuned to find out:
• Why did government officials attack Prine, in one instance calling him “Osama Bin-Laden’s best friend”?
• How did Prine dig up the “worst case scenario” reports he needed, after government websites pulled them from public view?
• Did Prine’s reporting spark any new security laws for storing hazardous chemicals?

The EXPOSÉ: America’s Investigative Reports series is produced by Thirteen/WNET New York in association with CIR.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Carrie Ching

Carrie Ching is an award-winning, independent multimedia journalist and producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For six years, she led digital storytelling projects at the Center for Investigative Reporting as senior multimedia producer. Her multimedia reports have been featured by NPR.org, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Grist, Time.com, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, KQED, PBS NewsHour, Salon.com, Mother Jones, Public Radio International, Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review and many other publications. Her specialty is crafting digital narratives and exploring ways to use video, audio, photography, animation and interactive graphics to push the boundaries of storytelling on the Web, tablets and mobile. Her work has been honored with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Best of the West, the Online News Association, Scripps Howard, The Gracies, and was part of the entry in a Pulitzer-finalist project. Prior to her time at CIR she was a magazine and book editor, video journalist, newspaper reporter and TV comedy scriptwriter. She was on the 2010 Eddie Adams Workshop faculty as a multimedia producer working with MediaStorm to teach digital storytelling techniques to photojournalists. She completed a master’s degree in journalism at UC Berkeley in 2005.