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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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RE: Outcry
By PrezWeezy on 5/28/2010 3:05:01 PM , Rating: -1
First, you're an idiot. This is CONGRESS not Obama. If you don't know the difference, you don't deserve to speak on the matter. Secondly, THEY ARE NOT STOPPING THE SALE. All they are doing is saying you have to show ID to get it. Just like I have to show ID to get cough medicine. You can complain all you want about Big Brother, but this is not Obama socializing and blocking product. This is Congress making a law which prohibits their sale without ID.

And for the record, all you people that talk about how Obama is the worst thing to ever happen are the exact same people who bitched and moaned when everyone else complained about Bush. Guess what, turn about is fair play. You talked smack about Clinton, they threw dirt at Bush, now you're all back at it again talking about how terrible Obama is. Guess what, it's how the game is played. Yes, if Bush did something stupid, people talked about it. And when Clinton did something stupid, people ALSO talked about it. And with Bush before him, and every single president since the media has gotten involved going back and forth. Get over it. Bush took away massive amounts of civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism, convinced congress to give up huge amounts of their power to the office of the President, and there was not near enough outcry about that. So they want to make it so you have to show ID to buy a cell phone and you're all the sudden up in arms about how they are taking away freedom?!


RE: Outcry
By Reclaimer77 on 5/28/10, Rating: -1
"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer














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