Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) supporters are disseminating ‘kill lists’ that contain the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of ordinary American citizens, reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
“A list distributed late last month contained the names of more than 2,000 New Yorkers, while another listed about 1,500 Texans,” notes the report.
The list was published on April 20 by United Cyber Caliphate, described as a person or entity that supports ISIS. It was first distributed via the Telegram encrypted messaging service and it then spread onto Twitter, the Journal learned from counterterrorism officials.
Citing those officials, WSJ reports, “Many of the 3,500 names on the list were duplicates, and officials believe the true number of people on it was closer to 2,000.”
Unlike other “kill lists” distributed by ISIS on social media platforms, the most recent one includes information on Americans with no known connection to the U.S. government or military, officials reportedly said.
“That development is sparking a debate among counterterrorism officials about whether the government should keep notifying all the individuals identified,” notes the Journal. “While ISIS has distributed kill lists for more than a year — typically over Twitter and other social-media platforms — officials say such lists are increasing greatly in size and have moved from targeting dozens of military or government officials at a time to thousands of ordinary citizens.”
“They’re putting out the lists that they are finding online and they’re sending it to their followers and they are saying these are good people for you to attack,” Thomas Galati, chief of intelligence for the New York Police Department, told the Journal. “You can’t discount it.”
The news outlet notes that so far, no one has been attacked for being on one of the lists. Nevertheless, authorities have notified the individuals named on the list released last month.
“Among veteran counterterrorism officials, there is disagreement about how seriously the U.S. government should respond to such lists, officials said,” points out WSJ. “Within the NYPD, many officials believed the list didn’t call for notifications of individuals because there was no credible threat to their safety, while at the FBI a number of officials argued that they should be notified out of an abundance of caution, the officials said.”
“Investigators said the list appears to have been taken from publicly available information, and that they know of no connection among the people or any connection that those people might have to the U.S. government,” it adds. “Many of the emails on the list were for past college accounts, or older Internet service providers, suggesting the information was years old, according to officials.”
The U.S. began combating ISIS in Iraq in Syria in 2014. Late last month, Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, told reporters that the flow of foreign fighters traveling to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria had dropped 90 percent within the past year to nearly 200 per month.
“In fact, we assess Daesh’s numbers are the lowest they’ve been since we began monitoring their manpower in 2014,” Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, told U.S. lawmakers in April, using an Arabic name for ISIS.
However, in early April, Gen. David Rodriguez, head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), told reporters that ISIS’s presence in Libya had more than doubled to between 4,000 and 6,000 in the last 12 to 18 months.
In February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper estimated that nearly 36,500 foreign fighters from more than 100 countries had traveled to Iraq and Syria to engage in jihad, including approximately 6,600 from Western nations.