EVEN DEATH WON’T GET YOU OFF the U.S. terrorism watchlist. As of last July, over 3,500 suspected terrorists included in the U.S. government’s central terror database were “confirmed dead” and another 13,000 were “reportedly dead,” yet many of their names continued to be actively monitored in databases like the no-fly list, according to an intelligence assessment prepared by the Department of Homeland Security in August of this year.
The numbers, which have not been previously reported, come from an intelligence assessment marked “for official use only” that was obtained by The Intercept. The central concern of the document, which was prepared by DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, was that suspected terrorists may be using social media “to fabricate stories of their deaths in an attempt to evade security scrutiny, a tactic that prominent terrorists used before the proliferation of social media.”
In the document, DHS warns that suspected terrorists who have faked their deaths could then return home using false identities. Yet the details contained in the intelligence assessment also underscore the contradictory guidance that agencies follow regarding watchlists.
“A significant number of ‘dead’ and ‘reportedly dead’ KSTs [known or suspected terrorists] cannot be placed on the No Fly List, because of insufficient biographic information needed to deny boarding to them,” the Office of Intelligence and Analysis concluded, after reviewing the numbers.