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FCC may quickly assist JCC phone threat probe

The Federal Communications Commission is actively exploring how it can quickly assist in the investigation of telephone threats against Jewish community centers, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.

The FCC’s statement comes after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai asking that a special waiver be granted allowing the FCC to unscramble the numbers of anonymous callers to targeted institutions.

Responding to Schumer’s inquiry Wednesday, FCC spokesman Neil Grace issued a statement to Newsday saying the chairman “is very concerned about the bomb threats being made to Jewish Community Centers across our country.”

“These threats have instilled fear and disrupted lives throughout the United States, and Chairman Pai condemns such anti-Semitic acts in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said. “The FCC is actively exploring what steps the FCC can take quickly to help Jewish Community Centers and law enforcement combat these threats.”

Schumer noted in his letter that on Monday bomb threats were simultaneously made to Jewish community centers in 11 states throughout the country including in Plainview, Staten Island and Westchester County.

“It is good news that the FCC and Chairman Pai have heeded the call and are committing to assist our local community centers, like the JCC in Plainview, with the tools needed to determine where these threats are originating,” Schumer said Wednesday in a statement. “No community should be the focus of threats designed to create a climate of fear. This action will help root out the source of those threats.”

Schumer said Tuesday since the beginning of the year there have been at least 69 incidents targeting 54 such centers in 27 states. He said “valuable intel” was needed to help stop the threats.

The offenders should not be allowed to hide, Schumer said. He said the waiver would allow authorities to access critical caller ID information to help identify and locate callers.

A spokesman for Schumer, Angelo Roefaro, said Tuesday the FCC normally permits a caller to have an anonymous number, but the waiver allows the agency to unscramble and see the number.

Roefaro said Schumer’s office “has a history of expediting such requests.” He cited a request Schumer made last year in a similar Middletown school district case that was approved within months instead of years — and the calls there stopped.

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