US FCC approves waivers to track Jewish center threats

In a rare move, the US Federal Communications Commission granted a temporary waiver to JCCs and telecommunications carriers to help track down calls threatening the centers.

By REUTERS
March 3, 2017 23:56
1 minute read.
Jewish Community Center

Police at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas (File). (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON - The US Federal Communications Commission is granting an emergency temporary waiver to Jewish community centers and telecommunications carriers that serve them to help track down callers who have made threats, the agency said on Friday.

Jewish community centers and schools in at least 13 US states have reported receiving bomb threats this year, stoking fears of a resurgence of antisemitism.

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"This agency must and will do whatever it can to combat the recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "I am pleased that we are taking quick action to address this issue and hope that this waiver will help Jewish Community Centers, telecommunications carriers, and law enforcement agencies track down the perpetrators of these crimes."

US Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, on Wednesday urged Pai to grant a waiver to access phone numbers used to call in threats and "help bring criminals to justice."

Schumer's letter said bomb threats were simultaneously made to JCCs in 11 states on Monday - the fifth wave of threats in the past two months.

The letter noted that the Middletown School District in New York state was inundated last year by phone calls making terrorism threats from anonymous numbers. In that case, then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler worked to approve a special waiver to access the caller information of the individuals making the threats, Schumer said.

Authorities are examining more than 100 threats made against JCCs by phone in five waves this year.

The government's granting of waivers to access caller information has been rare.

FCC rules generally require phone companies to respect a calling party’s request to have its caller-ID information blocked from the party receiving the call, Pai said. A waiver of this rule may help the community centers and law enforcement identify abusive and potentially dangerous callers.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey met with Jewish leaders on Friday morning to discuss the ongoing investigation.


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