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Local Police Want To Jam Wireless Signals 317

Posted by kdawson
from the hope-you-like-jammin'-too dept.
The Washington Post is reporting on the growing pressure from state and local law enforcement agencies for permission to jam wireless signals the way the Secret Service and the FBI can. Officials especially want to be able to drop a no-call blanket over local prisons around the country from time to time. "...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. The quest to expand the technology has invigorated a debate about how widely jamming should be allowed and whether its value as a common crime-fighting strategy outweighs its downsides, including restricting the constant access to the airwaves that Americans have come to expect. ... Critics warn of another potential problem, 'friendly fire,' when one agency inadvertently jams another's access to the airwaves, posing a safety hazard in an emergency. [CTIA spokesman Joe] Farren said there are 'smarter, better and safer alternatives,' such as stopping inmates from getting smuggled cellphones in the first place or pinpointing signals from unauthorized callers."
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Local Police Want To Jam Wireless Signals

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  • ....How about no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SolidAltar (1268608) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:42PM (#26688093)

    How can a local entity possibly have the technical expertise and know how to operate any kind of jamming equipment safely? There's a reason they are illegal for the public and even rarely used in the fed government: They are freaking dangerous and jarring to law-abiding citizens.

    Am I wrong?

  • Suure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkitecture (627408) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:43PM (#26688103)
    The dumb public will be just fine with it riiight up until the first lawsuit from some person who's relative died because they couldn't dial 911.
  • by OzPeter (195038) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:45PM (#26688117)
    I think that authorities are looking in the wrong direction with putting a jamming system as there will always be collateral damage of legitimate phones being blocked.

    I think it would be better to circle a prison with micro-cells and intercept all cell phone transmissions, and only allow through nominated numbers. This could also have the effect of being able to triangulate the position of illegitimate phones when they are used.

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:46PM (#26688137) Homepage Journal
    Right. Same with sneaking drugs into prisons as well.

    Even small amounts of dope or a cell phone is worth hundreds of dollars in the 'joint(typically a fourfold increase). Good dope dealers can make thousands a week from the inside.

    So why does so much taxpayer money go towards a poverty industrial complex which isn't even doing its job? Typical bright idea from lawmakers: "Hey, lets solve the problem by just hiding it from everybody else!"
  • by D4C5CE (578304) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:51PM (#26688175)

    Distilling your idea: Setup cell phone towers in prisons. The phones will connect to these towers since they are the strongest. Make these towers "dead" cells".

    Better yet, eavesdrop on these!
    Catch criminals on either end of the line talking crime most of the time...

    Jamming, OTOH, in any location just keeps victims or witnesses of crime from reporting it or calling for help.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:01PM (#26688237)
    With this the police can seize cell phones with evidence before the data is uploaded?
  • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:15PM (#26688315)
    So, wait a minute, what's your solution again - make sure no prison guards ever break the rules? That'll work. I suppose your approach to setting login passwords is "just leave 'em blank. Dishonesty is a social problem, not a technical one, and people should be honest enough not to use each others' accounts." Sure they should, but - more to the point - it ain't gonna happen.

    By the way what does "poverty industrial complex" mean?

  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:16PM (#26688321) Homepage

    Seriously [liveleak.com], it's [youtube.com] for [youtube.com] the [youtube.com] the [youtube.com] public [youtube.com] good [youtube.com]. You don't want people to be able to upload the videos before their phones are stolen...

  • Faraday cage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:21PM (#26688341)

    Wouldn't something like conductive paint or mesh/window films be more effective? Prevent RF from entering or leaving, and the problem is solved passively.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:23PM (#26688347)

    Freedom for you, but not for me I guess. Parents with kids out on a date night that want to get a text message if something goes wrong. Professionals on call won't ever be able to see a movie or go to the theater.

    You sir are part of the problem. Sorry for the harsh tone, but the hypocrisy over rights on the internet is just staggering.

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:24PM (#26688351) Homepage Journal

    So why does so much taxpayer money go towards a poverty industrial complex which isn't even doing its job?

    I think that's being just a little disingenuous. You could just as easily say "Crimes go unsolved and criminal unpunished. Why does so much taxpayer money go towards police departments which aren't doing their jobs?" or similarly, "People break laws all the time with no consequences. Why does so much taxpayer money go towards enforcing and creating laws which aren't doing their jobs?".

    Just because something doesn't work all the time for all the people doesn't mean it isn't worth the investment or that it should be dismissed outright. The fact is that while the law enforcement/prison system may not be perfect, it is preventing some people from committing additional unlawful acts. When you're talking about crimes such as theft, rape, murder, etc., that is a significant and worthy cause.

  • Re:I want one too! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Compholio (770966) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:39PM (#26688439)
    Yes, because no-one ever has emergency issues ... say, for example, a heart attack while at the theater.
  • Re:police (Score:3, Insightful)

    by philspear (1142299) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:46PM (#26688489)

    Do you really expect the police to understand something like this? These are the guys who got to where they are by brute force - not by understanding things.

    That's why they hire people who do understand these things to do it for them. Prison guards probably also don't understand the video monitoring systems they use, but that doesn't keep them from using them after they've been setup. It obviously doesn't take a genius to press a button to jam cell phone signals.

  • I call BS (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:56PM (#26688545)

    This is absolute horsesh*t. Holding the Mumbai incident up as a reason for jamming is wrong. Yes, the terrorists used them to increase the effectiveness of their attack. But people caught in that situation also used them to 1) direct the authorities to the attackers, and 2) save their own lives.

    So they should piss off and stop messing with communications.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:07PM (#26688613)

    plain and simple as hte police now work for hollywood so what do you epxect

  • by thesupraman (179040) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:22PM (#26688683)

    It is simple to set up a cell inside a prison that cellphones will connect to, which will then ID all calls, the details of the phone, and with a little RDF even its approximate location.

    So it would be quite simple to clear dis-allowed cellphones from inside a prison, of course they dont - this should give you some idea of the scale of the problems in the prison system.

    Why not make it the law that all non-registered cellphones using the prinsons cell site coverage are automatically logged (phone details AND voice recorded..) - surely that would make the value of the phones almost nothing.

    Of course again, there goes a big source of lets call it 'power' from the bad prison associates, so it will not happen.

    Its not just the men locking doors and doing searches who can be corrupt, in fact I would suggest its not even mainly them..

  • by Schemat1c (464768) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:32PM (#26688749) Homepage

    Just because something doesn't work all the time for all the people doesn't mean it isn't worth the investment or that it should be dismissed outright. The fact is that while the law enforcement/prison system may not be perfect, it is preventing some people from committing additional unlawful acts. When you're talking about crimes such as theft, rape, murder, etc., that is a significant and worthy cause.

    The prison system is a complete failure. The guards make insane amounts of money as do the companies that get contracted to perform services such as food and laundry. This leads to corruption on many levels all the way up to the lawmakers who pass ridiculous laws in order to keep the prisons full. The prison guards have a very powerful lobby in CA that was instrumental in stopping Proposition 5 which would have reduced prison populations dramatically and saved billions in tax dollars.

    There is nothing worthy about this system. The majority of prisoners are non-violent offenders, mostly drug offenses that should be treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal one. A simple Google search will give you all the information you need to know about Prison Inc.

  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:38PM (#26688793)

    The accessibility of drugs and other contraband in jail kind of shines a spotlight on the stupidity of the war on drugs. I mean if the government can't even come close to keeping drugs out of a place where people have no freedom at all, why do they think they can do it in a supposedly free country?

  • Re:Suure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supernova_hq (1014429) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:40PM (#26688811)

    Ok, I'm actually destroying previous mods to post this, but I think your comment warrants it.

    Jamming (any type, really), is a very inexact practice. It is almost impossible to effectively jam a single area without affecting the surrounding area. Contrary to popular belief, prisons are not all situated in the middle of a desert (though they probably should be). Many of them are quite close to towns, parks, camp sites,etc. I have personally been on group camping trips (200+ people) within 3 blocks of a prison. If someone had a emergency while driving past the prison on their way to the camp, they would not be able to call 911.

    I just want to make sure that you understand that jamming a prison, and only that prison is actually a lot harder than you may think.

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:49PM (#26688857) Homepage Journal

    Yes, thank you for using your awesome powers of ignorance and reading comprehension to make my point for me.

  • by JTorres176 (842422) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:58PM (#26688939) Homepage

    Cellular phones don't last forever. Most prisons don't allow prisoners to have electrical appliances in their cells. Remove all electrical outlets inside the cells and let the cell phones die after a few hours of use.

    It won't stop new ones from coming in, but it would damn sure have to increase the flow enough to cause a few more ripples.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @10:02PM (#26688967)

    Your idea is excellent, which is why prison officials have probably not thought of it.

    The techno-igorant reflex is to "turn things off" rather than "think of creative ways to change the situation".

  • by Rasperin (1034758) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @10:19PM (#26689097)
    Solar chargers, game,set,match.
  • Re:I want one too! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by YXdr (1396565) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @10:46PM (#26689349)

    Yep, people had heart attacks before - and they died. Now we have paramedics, automated defibrillators, cell phones, and other tools. So let's try a few scenarios:

    • Sorry that he died, but the ambulance's siren was bothering me so I sent them on a fake call. That's OK, people had heart attacks before paramedics.
    • Sorry that he died, but the color of the AED cabinet bothered me so I hid it behind a curtain. That's OK, people had heart attacks before AEDs.
    • Sorry that he died, but I didn't want my movie interrupted so I jammed the cell phone signal. That's OK, people had heart attacks before cell phones.

    Yeah, that's a good argument ... </sarcasm>

  • by OxyFrog (727507) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @11:03PM (#26689447)
    Are you insane? Certifying food and drugs, investigating, judging and imprisoning people, collecting taxes, allocating wireless frequencies, controlling air traffic.
  • by enos (627034) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @11:05PM (#26689457)

    I wonder how many people were saved because someone warned them of the danger by calling/texting them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @11:33PM (#26689615)

    I believe it is largely because people are running gangs, drug cartels, and white collar crime rings from inside prisons via their cell phones... and making a great deal of money doing it. You're not supposed to do that.

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @11:43PM (#26689689) Journal

    The main problem I could see with cell jamming during a terrorist or similar criminal situation is that there is a small possibility that maybe, one of the victims could be trying to secretly call 911 (or whatever the local equivalent is) to try to give police information about the situation inside the building (or vehicle, etc).

  • by loteck (533317) on Monday February 02, 2009 @12:14AM (#26690007) Homepage

    If you think that you are not a criminal, it is for one of three reasons:

    1 - You are a criminal and you know it, but you haven't been caught yet, so you haven't been publicly labeled as such or

    2 - You are ignorant of laws that criminalize things you do (and there are oh so many laws) or

    3 - They haven't passed a law against what you enjoy doing yet.

    There are libraries, Neo, endless libraries to hold all of our laws. We, as private citizens, are overrun with laws that examine our personal lives and behavior and make criminals of us all. All the State need do is to shine their spotlight on your life and soon enough you too will find yourself a "criminal".

    So you might not want to be so quick to suggest capital punishment for all of those who run afoul of the government. Just sayin.

  • Re:I want one too! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Monday February 02, 2009 @12:45AM (#26690249)

    A cell phone is faster though, and sometimes that time counts.
     
    I doubt that. Remember, this is a movie theatre we're talking about. You know -- dark room with loud sound? How do you expect the 911 operator to understand you without going out of the auditorium to talk to her? And once you're out, you can tell the manager to call an ambulance just as quickly as you can dial it yourself on your cell phone. And the wired phone connection will probably be more reliable. Plus the manager is in a position to shut the show down and request medical help from other patrons -- you can't put the movie on "pause" when you're sitting in the auditorium.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday February 02, 2009 @01:58AM (#26690823)

    I don't think that's a small possibility, I think it is a certainty.

    Every significant terrorist attack in recent memory has seen the affected people using their cell phones to get aid and give status, whether it was people hiding in hotel rooms in Mumbai, people stuck in the WTC on 9/11 or people in subway cars in bombings in the UK and Madrid.

    Turning off cell phone coverage in a emergency is just plain stupid. The bad guys will expect it and have alternate means of communication like FRS radios, so only the good guys will suffer for it.

  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Monday February 02, 2009 @04:33AM (#26691695)

    The war on drugs is stupid. Thanks for assuming I'm an idiot, but I am aware that a lot of people from law enforcement to drug cartels profit immensely from the status quo. I don't care. Having a corrupt system doesn't mean the resulting bad policies are any less stupid.

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