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Sen. Chuck Schumer: FCC should allow JCC phone calls to be traced

Sen. Chuck Schumer is asking the Federal Communications Commission chairman to grant a special waiver for tracing phone calls to all Jewish institutions and other entities that have been targeted as part of a recent wave of bomb threats.

In a letter sent Tuesday to FCC Chairman Ajit Varadaraj Pai, Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that on Monday bomb threats were simultaneously made to Jewish community centers in 11 states. The centers targeted included one in Plainview and others in Staten Island, Westchester, New Rochelle and Tarrytown.

Schumer said that since the beginning of 2017, there have been at least 69 incidents targeting 54 of these centers in 27 states.

“Valuable intel” is needed “to help stop the threats and thwart these phony calls that have a real economic and psychic impact,” Schumer said in a news release. “Perpetrators terrorizing Jewish communities across the country — and here on Long Island — should not be allowed to hide in the shadows.”

Schumer said the waiver would allow targeted centers to work with local law enforcement to access “critical” caller ID information that would allow the callers to be identified and located. Normally the FCC permits a caller to have an anonymous number but with the waiver the agency is allowed to unscramble the number so that it is visible, Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said.

A comment from the FCC was not immediately available.

“We cannot give these fear-mongering criminals protection when they are instilling hate and panic,” Schumer said. “All communities and entities targeted by intimidation and fear deserve access to all of the tools needed to ensure these criminals are brought to justice.”

In a letter to Pai sent Tuesday, Schumer pointed to a ‘swatting’ threat directed at the Middletown School District last year to show how the technology can be key in these investigations.

Schumer recounted how following the threat former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler worked with the senator’s office and the special waiver allowing the school district to access caller information for the individuals placing the threats was put in place.

Roefaro said Schumer’s office “has a history of expediting such requests.” He said the Middletown request was approved two months after it was made. Roefaro said other such requests have taken as much as four years.

Once Middletown got the waiver, and that fact was publicized, the calls stopped, Roefaro said.

Jewish community centers “provide so many services to the community at-large — from daycare, to education to sports,” Schumer wrote. “And no community should be the focus of threats designed to create a climate of fear. I stand united with the members of the Jewish community in Westchester, on Long Island, in Staten Island and in every community across America, against fear, intolerance and intimidation.”

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