Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Americans on Terrorist Watch Lists

This week’s fact-checking video by CNN’s Jake Tapper reviews Sen. Marco Rubio’s claim about the U.S. government’s terrorist watch lists. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rubio told Tapper there are “700,000 Americans on some watch list or another,” but the number is actually in the tens of thousands.

The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), the federal government’s central repository of known and suspected international terrorists, had 1.1 million entries as of December 2013, but only 25,000 were American citizens or lawful permanent residents. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), commonly referred to as the terrorist watch list, had 800,000 entries in September 2014, but only 40,000 were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

There is some overlap between the two watch lists. The FBI’s terrorist watch list includes names drawn from the TIDE database and from the FBI’s own surveillance of “domestic terrorists that may have connections to international terrorism,” according to Christopher M. Piehota, director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center.

Tapper’s fact-checking video is based on our Dec. 7 article, “Rubio Wrong on Terrorist List.”