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Feds, Police Want To Block Cell Phones

From a strangely unperturbed Washington Post:

People use their cameras and cellphones to photograph the inaugural parade review stand on Pennsylvania Avenue before Inauguration Day.

Local Police Want Right to Jam Wireless Signals

By Spencer S. Hsu
Sunday, February 1, 2009; A02

As President Obama’s motorcade rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day, federal authorities deployed a closely held law enforcement tool: equipment that can jam cellphones and other wireless devices to foil remote-controlled bombs, sources said.

It is an increasingly common technology, with federal agencies expanding its use as state and local agencies are pushing for permission to do the same. Police and others say it could stop terrorists from coordinating during an attack, prevent suspects from erasing evidence on wireless devices, simplify arrests and keep inmates from using contraband phones.

But jamming remains strictly illegal for state and local agencies. Federal officials barely acknowledge that they use it inside the United States, and the few federal agencies that can jam signals usually must seek a legal waiver first

Propelled by the military’s experience with roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, jamming technology has evolved to counter bombs triggered by cellphones, garage openers, remote controls for toy cars or other devices that emit radio signals. Federal authorities rank improvised bombs, which are cheap and adaptable, as one of the greatest terrorist threats to the West.

On Inauguration Day, federal authorities were authorized to jam signals at some locations in downtown Washington, according to current and former federal officials. The Secret Service and other officials declined to provide specific details, some of which are classified

The U.S. military is capable of shutting down communications across a wide area and has done so overseas, including when it has conducted raids to capture suspects. To counter explosives, devices can be set to jam signals for a distance of 50 to 500 meters, for example, or enough to allow a car to pass out of the blast zone of a small bomb.

Some federal agencies, including the FBI and the Secret Service, have standing authority to use jamming equipment or can request waivers from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce Department agency, when there is an imminent threat, a federal official said.

Jamming has been approved in the past for major events, ranging from State of the Union addresses to visits by certain foreign dignitaries, according to a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the subject.

After transit bombings in Europe, the Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement in 2006 under the National Communications System with cellphone companies to voluntarily shut down service under certain circumstances, which could disable signals for areas ranging from a tunnel to an entire metropolitan region, a DHS official said.

Much of the controversy has been fueled by the growing demands from state and local governments.

In the District, corrections officials won permission from the FCC for a brief test of jamming technology at the D.C. jail last month, after citing the "alarming rate" of contraband phones being seized at prisons around the country

The test has been put on hold because of a legal challenge, but the city will keep seeking permission, said D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles.

Texas prison officials made a similar request last fall after a death row inmate placed an illicit call threatening a state legislator, and South Carolina corrections officials said their department staged a test without permission in November.

In a pilot project, the FBI deputized about 10 local bomb squads across the country in 2007 so they could use a small number of radio jammers similar to the military equipment used overseas.

The local pleas for expanded permission are beginning to get a friendly reception on Capitol Hill. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate homeland security committee, plans to introduce legislation that would give law enforcement agencies "the tools they need to selectively jam" communications in the event of a terrorist attack, a spokeswoman said

This strikes us as newsworthy for several reasons.

First, if this is a security precaution being used for the President, should it not be kept confidential?

(Oh, that’s right, the editors of the Washington Post decided long ago that they were the ones to decide what national security secrets should be kept and which should not.)

But also isn’t this a bit disturbing in that this practice is presumably preventing people from using their cell phones when they might have some need to for an emergency situation, such as an accident or mugging or heart attack – when every second may count.

Lastly, that this practice is being considered for adoption by other federal agencies and even local police departments seems to be greasing the skids to government control over the use of our own telephones.

Who is to decide when cell phones should be jammed and when not?

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, February 1st, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

15 Responses to “Feds, Police Want To Block Cell Phones”

  1. proreason says:

    Strange that the watchdog media finds no fault now that The Moron is toasty in the white house. But their fangs were bared when the Bush adminstration tracked phone calls to KNOWN TERRORISTS.

  2. bousquem says:

    While I can understand why some want to to it, it the case of bomb squads, a 50 yard exclusion zone makes sense but giving any agency the right to just shut down all cell phones is stupid. Of course I don’t see the ACLU bitching about it yet but it still may happen. If Bush did it there would have been lawsuits out at the first hint of this going on but Obama is given free pass to do what ever he wants.

  3. Confucius says:

    “On Inauguration Day, federal authorities were authorized to jam signals at some locations in downtown Washington, according to current and former federal officials.”

    So, who authorized this? Bush or Obama?

  4. BelchSpeak says:

    I want to mount a cellphone jammer on my front bumber to get all the idiots around me in traffic to stop yapping on their cellphones.

    • BelchSpeak says:

      Oh, and Microsoft patented a technology whereby cellphones will automatically be shut off in places like movie theaters and cellphone camera disabled in places like museums and hospitals. They call it “DMP- digital manners policy.” See the patent here. http://tinyurl.com/68thpf

      So when you ask the question about who gets to jam cellphones? It may soon be local business, government agencies and other buildings that jam cellphones.

      But this new protocol is also supposed to be built into things like digital cameras, video recorders, and even automobile computers. Imagine a society where the police can dampen video cameras to prevent anyone ever again recording a Rodney King beating. Or perhaps your Media Center computer can no longer record certain television programs. Or your iPod can no longer share music with systems other than your own. What if your car is automatically stopped or prevented from entering a highway that is being used for a politician’s motorcade?

  5. Where is the outcry at President Bush for this….oh…hope and change.

    All is well, change has come to America!

  6. heykev says:

    I believe it is in the country’s best interest if I appoint myself “Cell Phone Czar”. This way I can decide who gets their cell phones blocked and when. You have nothing to worry about misuse with me…after all. I’m from Illinois and everyone here in government is a selfless, public servant. Additionally, this will be stimulating my families economy because I could use a job after getting laid off. My brothers, who have been laid off could then become lobbyists and make more money then they have in their lives….oh, maybe my wife too, as I don’t see any conflict of interest there. I would also like one of those spiffy cars BHO wants to buy.. I only hope mine comes with a driver.

    • proreason says:

      You only qualify if you have cheated the cell phone service suppliers for several years. Then you must apoligize and claim it was an honest mistake. Then The Moron forgives you and you get to accept the position, after which you become filthy rich and a devoted Moron supporter.

    • heykev says:

      It wasn’t cheating per say. But I was provided a cell phone on my last job, and used it extensively for personal use. I’d apologize for that and be happy in my new position. I’ve watched enough of BHO appointee’s on TV to know how to have a contrite look. I could, if needed, even bite my lip a bit…

  7. Anonymoose says:

    I wonder how there can be a “legal challenge” about using a cell phone in a jail where it’s already contraband, but who knows.

    I do agree that if it’s being done to protect the First Executive (as in anyone in office, including The Obama) that it’s not a bright idea to advertise it.

    As for jamming in hospitals/movie theaters, a polite but clear sign should tell people that. But then again it wasn’t that long ago I only had a land line, and I still don’t carry my cell phone with me except when I’m traveling It’s that old peace and quiet thing, I can’t give it up…………

  8. pinandpuller says:

    What about his ‘ighness and the first blackbery?

  9. pdsand says:

    It was not too long ago at all that this sort of this would turn mainstream media reporters into suicide bombers on account of Americans’ civil liberties. But now all of a sudden Obama is in, and we just get a matter of fact report on the subject and how it could save lives and be a useful tool for law enforcement? Wow the world is upside down.

  10. Liberals Demise says:

    “Can you hear me now?”


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