The FBI has not informed many Americans that they are on various encrypted "kill lists" published by the Islamic State or others inspired by the terrorist group.
"The FBI and other government agencies have very wide latitude to deny releases of information for the public for national security reasons, to a degree that I personally find very unsettling," Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst for the Clarion Project, told Newsmax Tuesday in an interview.
The Clarion Project, based in Washington, monitors Islamic terrorism and its supporters in the U.S.
"All they have to do is say it is related in some way to an ongoing investigation or national security," Mauro said. "It is very difficult for the public to contest that rejection because you don't know what they are holding.
"The way that government agencies seem to block researchers like myself at every turn is something that should be of concern to every American," he said.
Mauro was responding to a report Monday by Circa News
that the FBI had not informed many Americans that they were on the encrypted lists that have been published in recent months on private websites.
Circa News accessed copies of the some of the lists and called a sampling of Americans listed. They included homemakers, military personnel, college professors and art dealers.
The New York residents sampled told Circa News that they had received calls from the New York City Police Department about their being on ISIS lists.
But in Texas, 22 of the 24 citizens sampled said they had not received any information from the FBI or from their local police departments, according to the report.
Two police departments in which residents lived also said they had not been informed. "I was terrified," a woman who lives in Austin, told Circa News. "We live in a different world — and the Jewish community is a number one target of these radicals."
She and several friends from a local Jewish community were on one ISIS list sampled for the report.
"I'm very upset that I was not notified by the FBI or local law enforcement," said the woman, who asked not to be named.
In recent months, groups claiming to be ISIS or its affiliates have published more than 15,000 American names on encrypted websites, Circa News reports. Hacking groups have released eight lists between March and last month.
Those lists have included the names and addresses of 56 New Jersey state police officers, 36 Minnesota state police officers, 11 Tennessee county board members, 50 federal employees — as well as more than 70 military staffers or family members, according to the report.
The pro-ISIS groups have directed individuals or groups to kill those on the lists.
In addition, six days before the Orlando terror attack, the United Cyber Caliphate, a pro-ISIS group, issued its list of nearly 8,000 names
on the messaging app Telegram that was discovered by Vocativ.com.
The group's statement, released on June 6 and written in both English and Arabic, called on sympathizers to "follow" those on the list and "kill them strongly to take revenge for Muslims."
The list included 7,848 people identified as being in the U.S., including 643 in Florida.
On June 12 around 2 a.m., Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Fla., entered the Pulse nightclub and fatally shot 49 people, wounding as many as 53 others, before a police SWAT team killed him.
Mateen was born in New York — and he was a U.S. citizen whose parents were from Afghanistan. He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the attack.
When questioned by the Circa News report, an FBI spokeswoman told Newsmax in a statement Tuesday that "our standard practice is to decline comment on specific operational and investigative matters."
However, she provided this statement, which was also published by Circa News:
"The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information. We perform these notifications so potential victims are aware of possible threats and take appropriate steps.
"Those measures may include paying close attention to your surroundings at all times, protecting personally identifiable information, and immediately calling the local authorities if you observe something suspicious," the statement said. "The FBI will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local partners to keep the public informed of potential threats."
Mauro said that the FBI was possibly thinking that "telling those with their names on the list will cause unnecessary panic and grant ISIS victory.
"From that point on, all ISIS has to do is collect random names and contact information and publish it — and they'll get the headlines, cause fear and force the government to use up valuable resources."
Americans suspecting they might be on a kill list have only one option, Mauro said.
"The most that individual Americans can do is file a Freedom of Information Act request, wait a long time — and hope the FBI complies."
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