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Rubio Urges FBI to Reform Process for Assisting Survivors of Terrorist Attacks

Sep 20, 2016 | Comunicados de Prensa

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is urging the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to reevaluate and reform the way it processes requests for assistance made by survivors of terrorist attacks.
After the June 12th terrorist attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando, The Orlando Sentinel reported that FBI intake forms filled out by survivors requesting different types of assistance were not being shared with the City of Orlando, as local officials and many victims had expected. This caused unnecessary confusion and delays for applicants seeking help. Last month, Rubio sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey outlining several specific ways the agency could resolve these problems in Orlando, as well change its policy to prevent the same thing from happening to other victims in the future.
“In the three months since the Orlando terrorist attack, my office has been working with the City of Orlando and many affected constituents on a wide range of issues,” said Rubio. “We’ve been able to help a lot of people receive the assistance they needed, but we also identified issues like this that we want to fix going forward so that no one ever has to go through this kind of bureaucratic nightmare again. I’m hopeful the FBI will take these small but important steps so the lessons of Orlando can be applied in Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and anywhere else terrorists may strike.”
Yesterday, Rubio highlighted three issues in need of reform, which were identified during the course of assisting survivors of the Orlando terrorist attack.
El full text of Rubio’s letter to the FBI
August 24, 2016
Honorable James B. Comey
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535
Dear Director Comey:
Since the June 12th terrorist attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, my office and I have worked to make sure survivors and victims’ loved ones promptly receive all the federal assistance they need and should be receiving under the law. Unfortunately, one impediment to assisting Pulse victims has been the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) policy as it relates to FBI intake forms filled out by individuals in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Because these forms contained both the FBI and City of Orlando logos as well as a long list of services, both city officials and many of the nearly 1,000 applicants believed filling out these forms would be sufficient in order to coordinate resources for the victims and affected families. However, only later did the FBI inform the city it would not share copies of the intake forms, leaving the city with no other way of obtaining information regarding the victims’ needs. This has resulted in an unknown number of my constituents – who believed they were applying for aid two months ago – receiving no assistance from the local agency, because only the FBI knows who they are and has the contact information to follow up with them. These cases have fallen into what is essentially a black hole. 
The accompanying July 16th Orlando Sentinel article details this problem and many of the people who have been impacted by it.
When I visited Orlando on July 19, I publicly raised this issue as a concern that needed to be resolved. I appreciate your willingness to discuss this matter with me via phone on August 23 and your verbal commitment to do what you can to resolve the matter immediately.
I understand there are privacy concerns regarding the fact the forms in question are part of an ongoing investigation into a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. However, I believe there should be some way to strike a balance between those privacy concerns and making sure my constituents receive the assistance they need – and that many thought they were applying for when they filled out these forms in the first place. These potential solutions could include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • The FBI could contact each person who filled out forms, either by phone or certified U.S. mail, notify them of the need to complete additional forms, and provide a direct phone number or email address to do so. 
  • The FBI could provide the City of Orlando with the first page of each applicant’s Family Assistance Center intake form, which only contains their contact information and the boxes they checked to request specific services. If any additional, sensitive information has been written on a form, the FBI could reserve the right to block that particular information when sharing the form. 

As you can imagine, the people who filled out these forms and are now stuck in this bureaucratic logjam have been through a lot in trying to recover physically and mentally and pick up the pieces of their lives. The last thing that should be expected of them now is chasing paperwork, which is what they are essentially being asked to do.
It’s my hope that fixing this bureaucratic entanglement for the people of Orlando will ensure any future victims of similar tragedies do not encounter the same delays or obstacles. To that end, I formally request the FBI officially change its internal policy on these intake forms to avoid confusion going forward. This could include, but is not limited to, adopting any of the following approaches: 

  • The FBI and local government will each provide separate forms to the victims at the time they are filled out; 
  • The FBI form could include a disclaimer at the top making clear that its form is only for purposes of the FBI’s investigation, and that a separate victims assistance form must be filled out; 
  • The FBI could ensure that none of its intake forms include the extensive checklist of victims’ services being sought, as was the case in Orlando. 

I respectfully request your urgent assistance in this matter.
Marco Rubio
United States Senator