As expected, the FBI reports that, because “[t]his case concerns audio tapes,” and “[a]s no social security numbers are on the tapes at issue, this website [the SSDI] was not checked.” Needless to say, no one announces his or her social security number in ordinary conversation -- not even at a birthday party.
The government's obligation in this regard is to "ma[k]e a reasonable effort to ascertain life status." ... In short, "the proper inquiry is whether the Government has made reasonable use of the information readily available to it, and whether there exist reasonable alternative methods that the Government failed to employ."
... with respect to the FBI's reliance on its institutional knowledge, it appears that the Bureau has "been completely passive on the issue, taking death into account only if the fact has happened to swim into [its agents'] line of vision."
one has to ask why -- in the age of the Internet -- the FBI restricts itself to a dead-tree publication, with limited utility for the FBI's purpose, and with entries restricted to a small fraction of even the "prominent and noteworthy"? Why, in short, doesn't the FBI just Google the two names? Surely, in the Internet age, a "reasonable alternative" for finding out whether a prominent person is dead is to use Google (or any other search engine) to find a report of that person's death.
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