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Local Police Want To Jam Wireless Signals 317

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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  • Re:easy solution.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by SolidAltar ( 1268608 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:47PM (#26688149)

    > have one of the inmates smuggle in a jammer with the help of the warden/prison officials in exchange for access to the library or internet

    Actually the private prisons have some internet access. They also use the prisoners as call center employees. I think 60 Minutes had a program on it.

  • by auric_dude ( 610172 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:28PM (#26688395)
    As the attackers in Mumbai made use of phones and other mobile devices the NYPD wants top have the ability to cut mobile phone access as and when needed. As reported in Danger Room a short while ago []
  • Re:This will come up (Score:5, Informative)

    by whois_drek ( 829212 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:46PM (#26688485)
    Question: How the hell do you smuggle a cell phone into prison? Answer: You don't. You bribe/threaten a guard. Sure, you can smuggle a cell phone into prison. At our local county jail, the inmates tend a three-acre garden during the summer. There's no fence around it, no bars, no watch towers. Anybody could drop a cell phone or a stash of drugs into a carved-out watermelon, and it's trotted into the prison kitchen the next day. Three inmates work at the animal shelter next door as well. While the inmates hose out the kennels, people off the street walk up and down looking at animals. How can the shelter workers tell that one of the visitors isn't the inmate's cousin, dropping off a bag of drugs? It's laughably easy to smuggle things into prison, especially minimum-security ones with work-release programs.
  • Re:....How about no? (Score:3, Informative)

    by antirelic ( 1030688 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:09PM (#26688619) Journal

    Jamming cell phones at certain facilities should be allowed, such as in prisons, but using cell jamming technology on the block is chalked full of potential pit falls.

    I've dont some consulting with law enforcement and the application of technology in tactical situations, and the bottom line greatest problem with jamming cell phones is that it is a dead ringer that something is about to happen. In a tactical situation, anything that gives the target a reason to raise suspicion, dramatically enhances their reaction time. Jamming equipment's real danger is that using it too early can ruin the element of surprise. Cell phones can be set to alarm when coverage suddenly dissapears.

    Now what law enforcement really needs is the ability to emulate any carriers signal and perform intercept and interference, thus removing any form of potential early tip off (such as everyones cell phone suddenly going from 4 bars to 0 bars).

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:32PM (#26688757) Journal

    Prisons serve no purpose in the US. Sure, there's about a dozen different ideas why prisons exist, but none of these ideas are agreed upon and none of them are empirically measured to ensure prisons actually serve that purpose.

    Prisons keep convicts separate from the the rest of the population. They also, through their existence and the existence of prison rape, serve as a deterrent to crime, particularly the sort of white collar crime ordinary people might consider committing (embezzlement, fraud, DMCA violation).

  • Re:Faraday cage? (Score:4, Informative)

    by supernova_hq ( 1014429 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:57PM (#26688933)

    Ok, a few things to say here, so bear with me...

    Prisons are big, and I would guess that the materials and paint that would work would be pretty expensive.

    First of all, the summary doesn't say "prisons", they probably want to use this for SWAT situations.

    I don't know, is it possible that if someone were to break a window that the cage would suddenly be useless?

    My father does destructive building materials testing for a living. If there is one thing I can tell you, it's that most prisons (not all mind you), have some pretty freaking impressive windows. I've seen windows they had to hit 1000 times with 200 pound steel battering ram, and it didn't even SCRATCH it until hit number 20. Basically, if you are in prisons and want to break out, go for the wall, not the window...

    This jammer could be turned on and off, giving you more flexibility, wheras a permanent cage couldn't. There are situations where you might want to allow the use of cell phones.

    Again with the SWAT thing, if they want to disable phones inside a meth lab, I don't think the guys inside with AK's are going to simply sit still while you paint the house!

    And, most importantly, guards do use radios and possibly other types of wireless communications. Is it possible to build a faraday cage that would ONLY block cell phone transmissions and not play havoc with the other communications?

    All in all, I think this jammer would be safer, cheaper, and more effective than what you're suggesting. Just my non-expert opinion.

    Sorry for the rant, half of these were specifically aimed at the GP, but I didn't want to make 2 posts. Consider half of them in favor of what you said :D

  • by Ironsides ( 739422 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @10:05PM (#26688991) Homepage Journal
    Mount it on a 100 foot tall tower, angled downward, limiting the area covered to just that in the prison. Bing, bang, boom, only the prison is covered.
  • Re:easy solution.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by KingAlanI ( 1270538 ) on Monday February 02, 2009 @12:47AM (#26690261) Homepage Journal

    The 13th Amendment specifically allows involuntary servitude as part of the punishment for a crime of which one has been duly convicted.

    "Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

    Is conflict with Amendment 8 a problem here?

  • Re:This will come up (Score:5, Informative)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Monday February 02, 2009 @01:47AM (#26690747)

    stupidity of the war on drugs

    stupid (stpd, sty-) adj. stupider, stupidest 1. Slow to learn or understand; obtuse. 2. Tending to make poor decisions or careless mistakes. 3. Marked by a lack of intelligence or care; foolish or careless: a stupid mistake. 4. Dazed, stunned, or stupefied. 5. Pointless; worthless: a stupid job. n. A stupid or foolish person.

    The war on drugs is far from being pointless, worthless, or created with a lack of intelligence. It's only that you are under the delusion (which is simply a result of rampant propaganda) that the purpose of the war is to benefit our society.

    The prison industry is worth billions to private parties, the control that government gets to exert in the name of the war is impossibly enticing, and the ability to confiscate property involved with drugs is profitable to the right people.

  • Re:This will come up (Score:5, Informative)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Monday February 02, 2009 @08:39AM (#26692859)
    The guards make insane amounts of money

    I wonder:

    Median annual earnings of correctional officers and jailers were $35,760 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,320 and $46,500. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,580. Median annual earnings in the public sector were $47,750 in the Federal Government, $36,140 in State government, and $34,820 in local government. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the starting salary for Federal correctional officers was $28,862 a year in 2007. Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-2009: Correctional Officers []

    "They're hiring 18-year-olds two months out of high school. "We've got officers who are 70 years old, senior citizens. That's a security risk." Physical fitness standards have been lowered, with overweight, out-of-shape correctional officers in the system. Many Texans support keeping prisons as inhospitable as possible because they're supposed to be about punishment, but those same poor conditions (think double shifts with no air conditioning in the Texas summer heat) combine with low pay to make it nearly impossible to staff current prisons in their existing, mostly rural locations. Texas prison guard salary ranks 47th among states [] [Apr 7, 2008]

    Trinity Services Group is the second food services company to tell the Department of Corrections it can't afford to keep feeding prisoners. The company said it's losing $100,000 a month on its contract to feed inmates in the north-central part of the state and at three prisons in South Florida. The company, which was paid $21-million last fiscal year, said it's losing money because food and fuel costs are rising at the rate of 9 percent, far in excess of the 2 percent inflation cushion allowed in its state contract. Trinity is paid 88 cents for every meal served. Oldsmar company opts out of prison food service [] [Sept 19, 2008]

  • Re:This will come up (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:12AM (#26693047) Journal

    You don't really "give up" your rights per say -- you typically give up your "right" to employment if you break the agreement that you made with your employer.

  • Re:This will come up (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2009 @01:21PM (#26696183)

    Or you just pass it through the bars. One jail I know of is very strapped for cash (And while a jail, they get the felony offenders too because the prisons don't have room for them). They used to have a huge problem with people passing things--like sledgehammers--through the bars of the cells. Their solution was brilliant: if they put a whole bunch of chickens in the field around the prison, the chickens would make a huge ruckus anytime someone tried to visit a prisoner without going through channels.

    Officially, of course, they couldn't do that--the chickens just showed up one day, so far as the record is concerned.

    Also, keeping contraband completely out of prisons is impossible--I know of one inmate who has a picture of him holding an AK-47 in his cell.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev