an anonymous prepaid phone may get a lot harder in the U.S.
bill introduced by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John
Cornyn (R-TX) would require buyers of prepaid cell phones to show ID
at the point of purchase, and would require phone companies to store
this info for law enforcement purposes.The move comes after
the revelation that the terrorism suspect involved in the attempted
bombing in New York City's Times Square used an anonymous prepaid
cell phone to disguise his identity when purchasing loads of highly
explosive M-88 Fireworks and a Nissan Pathfinder. Commonly,
such purchases would alert the FBI and allow the individual involved
to be tracked. In this case, though, the anonymous handset
covered the terrorism suspect's tracks.Schumer describes, "We
caught a break in catching the Times Square terrorist, but usually a
prepaid cell phone is a dead end for law enforcement. There’s no
reason why it should still be this easy for terror plotters to cover
their tracks"Prepaid cell phones have also been commonly
used by mobsters and drug dealers. And Schumer/Cornyn add,
"In 2009 [prepaid cell phones] were even used by hedge fund
managers and Wall Street executives implicated in the largest insider
trading bust in US history. In court papers, federal prosecutors
detailed how traders from the Galleon Group hedge fund communicated
with other executives through prepaid phones in order to try to evade
potential wiretaps. In one instance, one suspect is described as
having chewed the Subscriber Identity Module, or SIM card, until it
snapped in half in order to destroy possible evidence."You
can currently freely pick up prepaid phones from a variety of major
retailers, gas stations, and small shops -- all without any
credit checks or identification information. The issue of such
anonymous sales is an international one which has seen much recent
debate. Simon Fraser University in 2005 led
a study [PDF] financed by the Canadian Federal government
that found that 9 of 24 industrialized nations had such restrictions
on purchases.Currently a number of states have similar laws,
including Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia
and South Carolina. However, according to Schumer, "[I]n
light of the increased reliance of terrorists on the devices, it was
time for a federal response."Advocates of the phones
worry that requiring ID info may make it harder for low
income families to purchase prepaid phones, one of the key groups
who uses the devices legitimately. They also worry about
potential discrimination and/or actions against unauthorized
immigrants from Mexico or elsewhere.
quote: I'll take socialist Obama over chickenhawks as the lesser of two evils.
quote: Bush took away massive amounts of civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism
quote: It's just like buying a car. Don't you have to identify yourself? A car is a non-dangerous vehicle.
quote: A police officer cannot require me to hand over my ID if I'm calmly sitting on a park bench, despite that bench being funded by taxpayer money.
quote: I'm all for starbucks giving away free wifi, but if I were the one in charge Id make it mandatory to sign a waiver and provide valid ID before id give anyone.
quote: They also worry about potential discrimination and/or actions against unauthorized immigrants from Mexico or elsewhere.