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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. :-(

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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