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Faisal Shahzad, who attempted a bombing in Times Square, reportedly used prepaid cell phones to disguise his purchases. The government is moving to block the sales of prepaid cell phones without ID.  (Source: Personal Photo via CBS)
New bill will mandate ID at location of sale

Getting an anonymous prepaid phone may get a lot harder in the U.S.  A new 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.

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By Reclaimer77 on 5/28/2010 11:56:36 AM , Rating: 4
Where is the public outcry over this in the media? This is the first time I've heard of this. Can you imagine, just imagine, if Bush blocked the sale of goods under the premise of anti-terrorism? You'd never hear the end of it !

RE: Outcry
By corduroygt on 5/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: Outcry
By AEvangel on 5/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: Outcry
By corduroygt on 5/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: Outcry
By nidomus on 5/28/2010 1:11:08 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget the difference between than and then

RE: Outcry
By Anoxanmore on 5/28/2010 1:26:37 PM , Rating: 2
Grammar cat syz, "intarwebs not need rulez" ;)

RE: Outcry
By arazok on 5/28/2010 3:22:34 PM , Rating: 2
The poor American people. All they want is real change, but there is nobody in the existing establishment willing to do it.

Here’s a list of 30 federal parties you might want to check out next election. Open your eyes man.

RE: Outcry
By KCjoker on 5/28/2010 6:41:35 PM , Rating: 2
Repubs spend like crazy but Dems spend even more...scary but true.

RE: Outcry
By MojoMan on 5/31/2010 1:34:40 AM , Rating: 1
Haha! You think Obama isn't sending anybody to war. LOL!!! I've got peeps in the military, and there is NO change in wartime agendas, just a change in what country we're occupying.

RE: Outcry
By therealnickdanger on 5/28/2010 12:12:07 PM , Rating: 5
Haven't you learned how this works yet? The government and the media work together to distract people with Anna Nicole Smith, oil spills, racism, Joe the Plumber, etc. while the government works behind the scenes to protect the interests of their wealthy lobbyists (international banks and conglomerates). While thousands hold a candle vigil for some overdosed celebrity, millions of us lose essential rights and freedoms. The larger the news story is, the more underhanded the bills floating through congress.

Distract and tax.
Distract and spend.
Distract and destroy.

RE: Outcry
By Reclaimer77 on 5/28/2010 12:14:36 PM , Rating: 2
Well yes I KNOW, I'm just asking the questions to illustrate the double standard.

RE: Outcry
By rs1 on 5/28/2010 2:33:09 PM , Rating: 5
No, they don't even need to distract anymore. All they need to do is say "we're doing this because of terrorists". And then the majority jumps on board, and anybody that doesn't is painted as a terrorist sympathizer, and entirely questionable legislation gets passed with thunderous applause.

There's no need anymore for artful distractions. Fear mongering has proven faster and more effective.

RE: Outcry
By Omega215D on 5/31/2010 7:37:18 AM , Rating: 3
Padme: "So this is how democracy dies, with thunderous applause."

RE: Outcry
By Treckin on 5/29/2010 4:19:01 AM , Rating: 1

RE: Outcry
By ClownPuncher on 5/28/2010 2:40:11 PM , Rating: 3
Write your congressman and forward these stories to the news outlets. I think it needs attention, nanny state trash needs to stop.

RE: Outcry
By PrezWeezy on 5/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: Outcry
By Reclaimer77 on 5/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: Outcry
By rdawise on 5/29/2010 12:13:51 AM , Rating: 1
Reclaimer77 how anyone with any sense of logic can take you serious is beyond me.

First, this wasn't even proposed by the President so how can you compare this to Bush?

Second, you probably only heard about it because it was introduced recently.

Third, if this does make it out of Congress, then you probably will hear outcry.

RE: Outcry
By inigoml on 5/29/2010 2:23:28 AM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, in Madrid terrorist attack on 2003 March 11th where almost 200 people died in several trains, terrorist activated bombs inside some backpacks with a phone call from a prepaid phone. 9 backpacks. 8 exploded. :-(

Good Evening, Gentlemen
By clovell on 5/28/2010 11:52:10 AM , Rating: 5
All your rights are belong to us.

You have no chance to survive make your time.

For great justice.

RE: Good Evening, Gentlemen
By OUits on 5/28/2010 12:06:55 PM , Rating: 3
In the year AD 2010... oppression was beginning.

RE: Good Evening, Gentlemen
By therealnickdanger on 5/28/2010 12:13:15 PM , Rating: 5
Someone set us up the Obama!

RE: Good Evening, Gentlemen
By clovell on 5/28/2010 12:36:37 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Good Evening, Gentlemen
By Anoxanmore on 5/28/2010 2:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, curiousity got the best of me, what is the extra "M" for?

RE: Good Evening, Gentlemen
By Camikazi on 5/28/2010 2:30:45 PM , Rating: 2
Laughing My Mother F***ing Ass Off

RE: Good Evening, Gentlemen
By Anoxanmore on 5/28/2010 2:41:07 PM , Rating: 2
Kitteh says thank you. =^-^=

RE: Good Evening, Gentlemen
By kirbalo on 5/28/2010 3:03:22 PM , Rating: 2

By UNHchabo on 5/28/2010 12:33:30 PM , Rating: 3
Some of us like to buy pre-paid phones because we don't like contracts from phone companies. Incidentally, some of us also don't like having our ID photocopied when buying something as non-dangerous as a communication device.

Guess what? I can walk into Best Buy or Walmart, buy a netbook with $200 cash, then walk down to Starbucks and use their free Wifi to communicate with the world, no ID required!

Someone close this loophole before it's too late! We must require ID to be shown whenever a communications device is sold, or the terrorists win! Among the items to be restricted: Computers, wireless routers, walkie-talkies, and "home terrorist communication kits" that come with two paper cups and a piece of string.

RE: Privacy?
By rcc on 5/28/2010 1:05:04 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, I'm in favor of the terrorist tax.

That is, we charge a high import tariff on all arriving terrorists. Thus funding all the country's anti-terrorist activities from the very people that create the need.

And, if we make the tariff high enough, perhaps they'll just take their business elsewhere!

/remove tongue from cheek

RE: Privacy?
By sviola on 5/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: Privacy?
By fic2 on 5/28/2010 1:57:02 PM , Rating: 2
A car is a non-dangerous vehicle? Really? Thousands of people are killed by cars every year.

All cities in the U.S. have at least 47 starbucks. Mandatory by law. So all cities have wifi.

I can imagine a terrorist using google maps or a gps to get to a site. Doesn't take typing directions. Just following the provided directions.

I would also think that most attacks are coordinated hours if not days in advance and not in real-time like you are suggesting.

RE: Privacy?
By UNHchabo on 5/28/2010 3:59:37 PM , Rating: 2
It's just like buying a car. Don't you have to identify yourself? A car is a non-dangerous vehicle.

If you buy a used car, you can pay cash, and not have any credit checks or ID checks required. You only need to register a car, or obtain a driver's license, if you're going to be driving on state-funded roads, and that's mainly because of the danger and liability involved with driving. You don't need an ID to simply use most state-funded facilities. 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.

RE: Privacy?
By LordanSS on 5/28/2010 5:26:23 PM , Rating: 1
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.

It seems that's relative, these days... =/

RE: Privacy?
By vtohthree on 5/28/2010 2:23:24 PM , Rating: 3
The terrorists are screwing it up for all of us, we're losing our privileges by the day because of them, it pisses me off.

The airport body scans, telephones, etc.

RE: Privacy?
By ClownPuncher on 5/28/2010 2:43:56 PM , Rating: 2
Kind of exactly what they want, changing the west into a more fundamental police state. It isn't the terrorists that are doing it, it is our knee-jerk reactions.

RE: Privacy?
By vapore0n on 5/28/2010 2:41:04 PM , Rating: 2
You are a moron. A phone, just like a computer, can allow anonymous communications between terrorist parties. I'm surprised it even took this long to close the anonymous out of contract phone loop given how popular they are in all movies.

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.

You can still get into any phone service without contract. It will just cost you as much as what phone you pick.

RE: Privacy?
By UNHchabo on 5/28/2010 5:07:29 PM , Rating: 2
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.

Then you may as well not offer Wifi service, because nobody will use it. You'll end up losing customers to other coffee shops that don't require permanently giving away personal information in order to access the internet.

How exactly would you plan on implementing it? Do you photocopy the driver's license of someone who wants to use it, then copy down their MAC address? That's the only way you'll be able to trace back illegal activity to any one user.

My main point is this: just because a communications medium can be used by terrorists to plan activities, this does not give the federal government to regulate or track who can use that medium.

Because terrorists never use fake IDs
By jthistle on 5/28/2010 12:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
Once again Congress doing something that will have no real effect.

By kattanna on 5/28/2010 12:43:49 PM , Rating: 3
yep, like outlawing guns.. cause that will stop the criminals from getting them


By Ticholo on 5/28/2010 12:42:45 PM , Rating: 3
Well, it will have an effect. It's just that they masquerade their intentions with fighting terrorism.

And about those terrorists that use fake IDs, congress is probably also working on a bill to require an ID when you get a fake ID.

Those two bills put together will thwart terrorism globally, maybe even across the galaxy!

Yeah, That'll do it
By DtTall on 5/28/2010 1:06:36 PM , Rating: 2
Because somebody who would blow themselves up cares.

I know the Times Square guy didn't but really? This is the answer? Here is a paraphrasing of some straight talk I heard the other day:

After 9/11 it was an enormous mistake to lead the American people down the path where we have them believe we can prevent the next terrorist attack...the Federal Bureau of Prevention is just not feasible or possible. It will happen, the next attack with certainly happen... Our political leaders have shrugged responsibility by not talking confidently and clearly with the American people to prepare them for the inevitability of a terrorist attack.... ISRAEL, FRANCE, SPAIN... none of those people believe there won't be another car bombing or terrorist attack...

RE: Yeah, That'll do it
By fic2 on 5/28/2010 2:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
There have been several terrorist attacks on the U.S. since 9/11. But only one that I can remember has been successful - the guy in San Antonio. The rest have failed. Not because of anything that congress or TSA or homeland security or anything else gov't. But because the terrorist were more incompetent than the gov't agencies. That in itself is a pretty mean feat.

RE: Yeah, That'll do it
By ZachDontScare on 5/28/2010 2:36:25 PM , Rating: 2
There have actually been a number of shootings which you can probably call 'terrorist' acts since 9/11, including Ft Hood, a shooting at LAX (or one of the CA airports), and the Utah mall shooting (the shooter was a kosovar with family ties to known terrorists). There was also a suicide bomber in Oklahoma or Nebraska, at a football game. Not sure if that was terrorism per se, but the guy who did it was a islamic convert. Also, the millenium bomber was caught by an alert border official.

The guy with a plane in austin was not a terrorist... not by the traditional definition. He was specifically targeting an agency he believed had done him wrong. He wasnt trying to coerce or terrorize a population, he was trying to kill people connected to the IRS.

Now, yes, the guy in times square was incompetent. I mean, really suprisingly stupid given his educational background. But to be fair, the car was spotted by a street vendor who specifically mentioned the 'if you see something, say something' programs he's seen in NYC as the reason he reported it. So you cant say the govt wasnt at least partially responsible for discovering the vehicle.

illegal not unauthorized
By jeepga on 5/28/2010 3:38:58 PM , Rating: 5
The author of this article needs to correct his glaring error. He calls illegal immigrants unauthorized immigrants. I'm sure it was intentional, but it is not appreciated. They are criminals.

The next thing you'll hear is that thieves are now being called unauthorized borrowers. Stop the nonsense.

By icanhascpu on 5/28/2010 5:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither

RE: Err
By Firebat5 on 5/29/2010 12:28:35 AM , Rating: 2
Should be "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security will have neither." IMO

By frozentundra123456 on 5/30/2010 11:02:26 AM , Rating: 2
Theoretically, I would be against this, but in the climate that we live in, I think it is a necessary evil.

If you dont use the phone for anything illegal, what is wrong with showing ID when you buy it?? You have to give a lot more information than this to get a land line phone.

RE: outcry
By Cheesew1z69 on 5/30/2010 7:07:58 PM , Rating: 2
And with a land line, that's exactly it, it's tied to something physical, eg: HOUSE so you need to prove you live there to get service.

By PAPutzback on 5/28/2010 12:53:55 PM , Rating: 3
[quote] They also worry about potential discrimination and/or actions against unauthorized immigrants from Mexico or elsewhere. [/quote]

How can illegals be considered part of the argument. How to you have discrimination against people that shouldn't be here in the first place. illegal = criminal. So maybe all the criminals in prison should get prepaids so they can continue to conduct their business.

By XSpeedracerX on 5/29/2010 1:39:43 AM , Rating: 3
... from people who are getting social security, VA benefits, pel grants, student loans, etc., I actually stood in line at walmart hearing a teabagger cry about obama and the congress while at the same time swiping his EBT card to pay for his food! UNBELIEVABLE!

If you don't like socialism, that's fine, just don't go round talking about how you hate it while happily eating your share of the gov't cheese.

What about us legals?
By littvay on 5/29/2010 9:11:37 PM , Rating: 1
Reading the comments the following thoughts went through my mind:

- Could someone talk about the article?
- Eyes rolled
- More eyes rolling
- Finally someone read the article
- ... but still they don't get it
- What a bunch of f#$@ing...
- Does anyone reading this every travel anywhere?
- Ugh...

Let me explain:

I am from Europe (ya know, the continent to the right on most maps where the countries are smaller then most of your states with 3 electors). And now I am officially an immigrant. A legal one. Before I was an immigrant I was a Student on J1 and F1 Visas. I never spent a day illegally in the US. I did manage to pick up a high school diploma, a BSBA, an MA a PhD (these two in political science - add the idiotic discourse up front and the immigrant hating makes me want to puke) and another MS before I ever picked up a US ID.

Now my question is the following: what kind of ID will be required? Because most of the idiots working at AT&T, Verizon, etc. (much like the people commenting here) have never seen a passport. They also might be troubled by the lack of an official address on a passport. And you know who else needs these pre-paid services? People who travel internationally (as most of you obviously don't).

It is bad enough that you guys can't agree on a phone standard (or a measurement standard) with the rest of the world. AT&T and T-Mobile chips do work in unlocked EU phones (most of the time). Though neither of these companies have the decency to sell pre-paid (non-month to month as most travelers do not travel for months) pre-paid plans with data. I travel back and forth a lot. Most recently I spent more time in Europe. So I am not paying for a contract. End of story. I bough a smart phone at full price and I really could use some data. And why neither companies are willing to sell it to me at the usual @s$-rape rates is beyond me. AT&T told me some bullshit about, ohhh, iPhone, that needs iPhone data. No dip$hits, I need INTERNET. Not iPhone Internet.

So I am really pleased to hear about the prospects of the future. I am all for anti-terrorism. I am willing to show my passport to anyone selling me a phone. But please train your damn employes and please make the pre-paid accessible to this large segment of people who need it. Lately it seems that all people care about is themselves can have and what illegals can have. Move out of the little worlds in your head please and start thinking. And to quote Jay Lenno: "The good news is, all the illegals have left the country. The bad news is that now a head of lettuce is $47." Now think about that for a second. I also welcome anyone to join the chicken processing industry for a few hours before they bitch about them illegals. Yes, they are a problem. But the solution is amnesty and easy access to seasonal work. One of the only sensible plans Bush had. Too bad the idiots in his party killed it.

RE: What about us legals?
By leuNam on 5/30/2010 12:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
3 seconds is all i need...sheesh, if you have ID then bear with it, if not...STFU

By clovell on 5/28/2010 11:50:13 AM , Rating: 2
There's this thing called EBay - where you can buy used phones.

I'll probably pick up a few prepaids before the bill gets signed.... so stupid.

By WinstonSmith on 5/29/2010 1:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
"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."

OMG! It's the end of the freaking world! He purchased _fake_ M-80s that are allowed to be sold legally because they are no more powerful than the modern 1.25" flash crackers that might blister your fingers at most. "Highly explosive M-88 fireworks"? LMFAO!

"Commonly, such purchases would alert the FBI and allow the individual involved to be tracked."

Bologna! Buying legal fireworks and a car would alert the FBI? They must be alerted every few seconds, then.

This has become nothing more than a big bro BS nation if you buy this bologna.

By johnsonx on 5/29/2010 3:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
They also worry about potential discrimination and/or actions against unauthorized immigrants from Mexico or elsewhere.

This is why I am in favor of ANYTHING to crack down on illegal immigration. I am sick and tired of being told that we can't enact or enforce any law anywhere in the country because it might make something difficult or uncomfortable for foreign nationals present in this country illegally. Heaven f___-ing forbid that we might make somebody feel bad, ESPECIALLY anyone who speaks spanish.

This seems to have become the litmus test for any proposed new law: if it will be inconvenient for illegal immigrants, then obviously the law is unconstitutional and anyone who supports it is a racist.

By 666 on 6/1/2010 12:07:23 AM , Rating: 2
What are you people talking about? Here in Russia, there's no such thing as a "prepaid cell phone". Unheard of. You want a phone in Russia, you have to be either a citizen or a foreigner registered with the government and if you're a foreigner, your phone lives as long as your registration with the government does. Certainly, you can get a local with whose name to register your phone, but if you're a terrorist, that individual's screwed just as they would be in ANY country with half a brain in the police force.

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