9-11 first responders to be checked on FBI terror list

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

It's the sort of legislative provision that "Inception" director Christopher Nolan—or maybe paranoid sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick—might dream up: Under the terms of last year's health compensation law for first responders to the 9/11 terror attacks, would-be beneficiaries have to submit to FBI background checks to verify that they are not themselves terrorists. The provision places applicants' names and personal information in a file to be cross-checked with the FBI's Terror Watch list before they receive any medical compensation.

The Huffington Post's Michael McAuliff reports that a last-minute amendment to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law mandates that the government must establish that no first responders and 9/11 survivors are terrorists prior to assessing their eligibility for federal benefits.

Rep Cliff Stearns (R-FL) added the amendment during the bitter debates over the bill, which provides $4.3 billion in compensation to help workers who fell ill after the attacks. The bill also provides compensation for people who lived or attended school near Ground Zero. Senate Republicans initially blocked the bill.

Workers will be informed by their medical providers before July that they need to be screened to ensure they are not terrorists.

"It's comical at best, and I think it's an insult to everyone who worked on The Pile and is sick and suffering from 9/11," John Feal, an advocate for 9/11 workers and a former construction worker who lost part of his foot at Ground Zero, told The Huffington Post. "When cops and firefighters get this at home, they're going to hit the roof," he said.

But one first responder told McAuliff he had no problem with being screened. "How do you know if there were any terrorists there?" Anthony Flammia, a former NYPD Highway Patrol officer, asked.

Stearns says because the bill applies to people working in the vicinity, he wants to ensure no terrorists benefit. You can read the whole story here.

(Wendy Flammia holds a photo of John McNamara, a New York City firefighter who died August 9, 2009, as Sen. Charles Schumer talked about the first responders' bill last December: AP.)