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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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  • This will come up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SolidAltar ( 1268608 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:38PM (#26688047)

    Question: How the hell do you smuggle a cell phone into prison?
    Answer: You don't. You bribe/threaten a guard.

    • 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 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?

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

          by RabidMoose ( 746680 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:58PM (#26688559) Homepage
          Unfortunately, you're right. There's likely no 100% effective way to prevent the smuggling of items into prisons.
          Say you invent a magical contriband detector that always sees any item you want on a person. All it takes is to bribe the person operating the machine, and it becomes useless. Make a machine that's totally automated and decides for itself, and you're getting dangerously close to Skynet.
          • 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 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".

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by BitterOak ( 537666 )

              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.

              Wrong. Most prisoners couldn't care less if their calls are being monitored. The reason cell phones are valuable to prisoners and the reason the prison administration doesn't want them used is that use of the standard prison phone is a HUGE source of revenue for the prisons, as all calls are collect, calling card numbers (often all 800 numbers) are typically blocked, and the prison's carrier often charges more than 10 times standard rates. There are companies that cater especially to hospitals and prison

        • 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.

        • I think he was agreeing. And if you don't think prison labor is a huge industry, well, it is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

        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 som

        • 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.

          • 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 [bls.gov]

            "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 [blogspot.com] [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 [tampabay.com] [Sept 19, 2008]

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

          by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @09:51PM (#26688875) Homepage
          What is the more correct conclusion, is when the system is failing but has potential, you review and alter the system so as to reduce the failure potential. Privatised for profit prisons will always be a failure at rehabilitation, as rehabilitation costs money and in reality eliminates the future profit potential of current inmates (no repeat offenders).

          Corporations are simple amoral engines of greed, their priority is to charge as much as possible while spending the least amount possible, hence locking up convicted inmates in the cheapest way possible that they are legally able to get away with. So low cost guards basically low IQ thugs in uniform who often derive perverted sexual fulfilment from abusing people, rather then properly trained correctional (note the term) services officers, which of course would 'cost' a corporation two to three times as much, where as of course repeat offenders only cost the public ten to one hundred times that in damages, pain and suffering, so corporate profits first the publics interest last and keep those returning profits from repeat offenders coming in.

          The reality is that a prison should in fact be the most law abiding place in society, otherwise the supervision and rehabilitation is demonstrated to be a total failure. Rather than blocking transmissions that should be tracking them to find the contraband then pursuing the trail of evidence to apprehend all those involved and of course turn the smuggling prison guard into an inmate and demonstrate the effectiveness of law enforcing institution and it's staff. Jamming the signals, the cheap solution which is basically giving up on enforcing law within in prison.

      • 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: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, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:21PM (#26688343)

      While there is more corruption in prison than anyone would like to admit, all the compact technology in a cell phone is tremendous, and it keeps getting smaller and easier to smuggle.

      Also, most prisons are criminally understaffed. It is far easier to bribe a guard when there are less eyes on the prisoners and less colleagues who are keeping an eye on other staff as well (although I note the administrative ranks seem to be swelling).

      Jammers make the most amount of sense on a per cost basis, but the underlying problems in prisons remains.*

      *Works in a prison.

    • Carrier pigeon [news.com.au], obviously.
    • 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.
  • Wouldn't it make a *lot* more sense to just make a deal with the cell phone companies to fail to route non-emergency calls?

    • Re:dumb. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SolidAltar ( 1268608 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @07:45PM (#26688119)

      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".

      I guess as long as you set them up inside the prison blocks of solid concrete walls and steel it could work. *shrug*

    • Wouldn't it make a *lot* more sense to just make a deal with the cell phone companies to fail to route non-emergency calls?

      And block all phone use by guards, prison management, and visitors?

      Real clever. Remember, the article is talking about spot blocks that would be done on a temporary basis, not a permanent ban on communications.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ironsides ( 739422 )

        And block all phone use by guards, prison management, and visitors?

        All CELLphone use. The guards, management and visitors would still have access to the land lines.

        • All CELLphone use. The guards, management and visitors would still have access to the land lines.

          What good does that do? It wastes state money having to have more land lines to accommodate more people. It blocks things that are commonplace now like texting, that once people grow used to using is a real drawback to be without because people will expect it to work for you. It also doesn't help people that are nearby, but not in, the prison - like people driving by.

          Again, it's simply a bad idea to lock down

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by plover ( 150551 ) *

            First, cell phone tower antennas can be made highly directional, providing coverage over a small arc. It would be a Small Matter Of Engineering to design a series of antennas that would effectively cover a prison and not the surrounding area or even the parking lot.

            Extending the idea of directionality further, cell towers today can already provide the location of the phones being used to within a few hundred yards. It should technically be possible to obtain the cooperation of the local cell providers

        • Right, because in your magical world jails have multiple fall over systems for comms that can't be knocked out by fire or other inmates. Unfortunately in the real world jails just aren't built that way. Hell, our local low risk jail doesn't have a sprinkler system and was damn lucky not to burn down.

          http://tylerpaper.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090127/NEWS08/901270322 [tylerpaper.com]

          The problem with ideas like this jamming is they not only block criminals, who by definition are going to find a way to break the law as

          • Here in Mexico City criminals work inside prison. They get smuggled cellphones and do their threaten calls/intelligence operations. Safetey measures such as jamming cellphone signals inside prison have been proposed - unfortunately their implementation is at the local (corrupt) government's will.

      • 911 is not the only emergency number that goes through. And it certainly isn't the only one that *could* go through. The cell companies, I'm sure, would be all too happy to accommodate the prisons' needs.

        Certainly the prison control center and all of the local police would be on the allow list. Lawyers and other visitors could probably have their phones put on a temporary "don't block" list, as well.

        The article's suggestion of jamming the cell phones' RF emissions would be far more limiting to guards and

    • Assuming that all Cell phone companies would agree to limiting calls like that, how do you suggest they distinguish between calls made at the prisons or whatever place verses calls made 200 feet from it or from people who otherwise have legitimate reasons to make a call?

      I can see where spot jamming might be wanted. Something like a bomb scare where you wouldn't want the possibility of remote triggering to happen. Or maybe in a prison riot situation where contact to the outside could escalate the situation a

  • ....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?

    • What danger is there? Doesn't the jammer just mess with the frequencies used by cell phones?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by antirelic ( 1030688 )

      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 re

    • by JAZ ( 13084 )
      Yes. You are wrong.

      What makes you think that the federal government is any more trustworthy than a local government?

      Neither should have neither the authority nor the means to do anything that a private citizen can't do - they are only acting on our behalf, right?
    • Rarely used?

      You really need to catch up on how many localities jam GPS coverage, often for a few city blocks..

      Hint: Not all poor GPS reception in cities is because of building geometry/coverage...

      Its considered a 'security risk' on the theory that packed bombs could be GPS detonated in the right location (and not allowing for the fact that all they have to do it get some moron to push a button at the right time instead.)

    • by JAZ ( 13084 )
      Yeah, I'd say you are wrong.

      What makes you like that federal authorities are any more responsible or trustworthy than local?

      No level of government should have the authority or the means to do anything to its citizens that the citizens can't or shouldn't be able to do as well. Governments are just people like you and I who are acting our our behalf. If I can't do it, the government shouldn't do it.
  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sgt_doom ( 655561 )

      Outstanding point, Good Citizen darkitecture.

      It reminds me of those white-collar workers within the Twin Towers on 9/11/01, who dailed 911, only to be told by some witless 911 operator or other to remain in their building which had just been struck by an airliner.

      Reminded me of that airhead I once knew who had been hired to be a 911 in NYC, even though her husband was a fugitive from the law and had an outstanding warrent on him.

      Unbeleivable, but to be believed during these present times of ultimate lawless

    • ...from inside a prison, on a cell phone they're not supposed to have? Hmm...

      • 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 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 Gyga ( 873992 )
      You'd only need 1 in order to route all calls, 3 (along the outer fence line) to locate the phones. Not including problems with different carriers. Of course anyone who lives by the prison will be pissed when their phone gets routed.
      • by Gyga ( 873992 )
        Sorry half my post got lost (mea culpa).

        It'd be better to just sit up dumb antennae (3) that detect the phone's signal (I believe their are only a couple frequencies used by cellphones) and locates it so the guards can go confiscate/discipline the innmate.
        • Right, except that crooked guards are how the inmate got ahold of the phone in the first place. It comes down to a point where you've got to really trust your guards.
      • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

        If you can triangulate, you can simply ignore anything outside the prison, and only check the authorization status for the phones inside it.

        • by Gyga ( 873992 )
          How would the outside phones respond to being ignored by the towers if they are the strongest? It also takes time to triangulate (have to let the towers compare data/timing, calculate the distances from the three towers ...)

          I would love to hear this "Please wait while we triangulate your position so we can determine whether or not to block your call and confiscate your phone."
          • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

            Isn't triangulation a very simple and quick thing? 3 towers ping the phone, report data to a central server. The ping time corresponds to the distance from the tower (assuming no data loss). Distance should be trivial to calculate. Draw a circle around each tower (with location precisely known) with a radius corresponding to the distance the phone's at, and the phone will be in the place where all 3 intersect.

            I'd be surprised if the whole thing took more than a second.

            Even in the case it for some reason tak

            • If the phone is in a radio reflecting room (a jail cell?) the signal may bounce around enough to make it impossible to locate the phone to the nearest metre.
              • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

                You can probably still tell that it's somewhere on the inside and not the outside though. And narrow it down enough to only have to check a small area.

      • There's this thing called a directional antenna. You can use them to make sure the towers only pick up phones inside the prison.
        • ...and anything on the other side of the prison!

          Unless you plan on mounting said antenna 500 feet above the prison...

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Ironsides ( 739422 )
            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.
    • Agreed completely. It would be easy to implement what you say. Standard micro-cells won't do triangulation, they have to have special ones, but this would be possible, and if the use them in enough places, affordable.

      Of course, this wouldn't be legal for them to do without FCC permission either. But at least it would work better.

      I once stayed in a hotel where WiFi access was free in the lobby but nowhere else. My balcony had a view of the lobby, and I could pick up the lobby Wi-Fi bases from the balcony, bu

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

    by phantomfive ( 622387 )
    Seriously, a cell phone jammer is the greatest testing device I ever had, when I was working on mobile projects. Think about in theaters, or just to watch people's faces when their call drops every five minutes on the train. Sorry I sound sadistic, but everyone has that side of them they should let out once in a while.
    • Re:I want one too! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zackbass ( 457384 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:30PM (#26688413)

      The funny thing about this is that however many geeks there are that think it'd be fun to set up a jammer there's as many geeks out there who'd like nothing more than to track them down. I can see amateur radio operators having a field day (pun intended) hunting them down and helping the FCC hand out fines. No doubt crushing fines both because of the implications for emergency handling and because it's a strike against the telecoms. Tracking down cell phone jammers could become a major sport for radio operators if they become more common.

  • 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?
  • I missed a commercial!

  • 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.

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

      There is also undoubtedly a lot of restrictions on what you can construct one out of to prevent prisoners from breaking pieces off and stabbing each other with them. Installation at least would be a major hassle, there's probably some type of security clearance construction workers working on active prisons have to have, and this would be a major job. And probably there would be at least one tinfoil h

      • 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

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That would work great until some prisoner got a guard in his cell and beat him up and the guard couldn't call for backup.
  • as long as the police must pay damages and make public apologies when ANYONE elses communications are disrupted
  • 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 http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/01/nypd-eyes-disru.html [wired.com]
    • So, why not give them the right to get the cellular companies to disable cell towers?

      Cell towers are also quite highly directional (they carry sets of antennas) so it can even be moderately selective.

      If, of course we are talking a major terrorist level of activity.

      My suspicion is however that it is more wanted for day-to-day police work - not quite the same thing though, is it..

    • After that maybe body language and eye contact. At some point we can view any limitation as an impediment to doing our jobs but I think with civil rule it's important to remember that part of that impediment, the limits and checks and balances, are an equally important part of the job. Because unless I missed the memo, absolute power still corrupts (or gets misused eventually anyway).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by enos ( 627034 )

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

    • 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 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.

  • Prisons (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:39PM (#26688445)

    They don't need the ability to jam cell phone signals to stop them from being used in prisons.

    Prisons are controlled facilities that can be designed from the ground up to provide ways of stopping unauthorized signals.

    For example, by lining cells with tin, special paint, and other materials that block certain radio frequencies.

    This could be done to the entire building, and would be much more effective and safer than periodic localized jamming during an emergency.

    They could even be designed so that the measures are just strong enough to prevent cell phones from working, but still allow personnel to carry radios and other equipment with higher power transmitters, that would not be significantly impacted.

    Another possibility is to place monitoring apparatus in each cell, and if a prisoner uses a cell phone or other radiocommunication device, a detector will trigger an alarm identifying the specific area from which a cell phone has been used.

    The method of detection still allows any cell phone that happens to be in a prison facility in event of a life-threatening emergency, as a means to summon aid.

  • Micro Cells (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:54PM (#26688537)

    Have prisons work a deal with the cellular network folks to set up some low power micro cells covering the prison facilities. All calls will be routed through the prison cell site. Legitimate users (staff) can have their phones 'whitelisted' to bypass the filtering and surveillance applications running on the base station.

    Think of the intelligence the anti-gang units can accumulate by listening in on calls. Or even checking to see who is calling whom. Legitimate prisoner calls (from prison phones) are subject to monitoring, so this wouldn't be a big legal hurdle.

    • Actually, I'd do it the other way.
      If you survey the numbers that are used in the prison that aren't staff, you can shut them down. Let everything else pass, what way when you're driving by your call still goes through.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )

      All calls will be routed through the prison cell site.

      Prisoners have NOTHING BUT TIME. Through the slightest bit of intelligence, and sheer force of trial and error, SOMEBODY will figure out that holding a piece of aluminum foil over half the phone, while facing just the right distance, will work. And once one person figures it out, the rest will, quickly.

      How often are you going to make changes, and how quickly will the prisoners adapt to them?

  • The main problem with this is that a cell phone is not becoming more and more of a tool used to increase freedom of the press. For example, someone in a prison could quickly videotape abuse and send it to a news agency with a cell phone, thus increasing freedom, but this law is a serious attack on free press.
  • I somewhat agree jamming is a possible solution. But the prison in particular really don't need to do it. Instead, they should install micro-, nano-, or pico- cells right inside the walls of the prison. The cells need to use every available mobile (CDMA, TDMA, GSM, etc.) technology, and provide absolute five bar coverage at every point inside the fence.

    A typical cell will connect to the strongest signal it can get. They only look for a backup cell when the primary signal starts to

  • So why can't you:

    1: Locate the d@mn things? It's a radio transmitter every moment it's turned on.
    2: Set up legal femtocells connected to black holes? The phones connect, but they never deliver.
  • Cheaper than jamming, why not set up wireless signal detectors (like those used to detect the presence of WiFi networks) to allow the pin-pointing of illegally smuggled in devices. These would cost a fraction of cost of jamming devices, not have questionable legalities and would allow prosecution of those caught illegally using devices inside goal.
  • by coyote4til7 ( 189857 ) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @11:57PM (#26689851) Homepage

    Whether things are handled by jamming or by a micro-cell solution or some other way, there's one big problem. A lot of prisons are very close to major interstates or population centers. The main max in Texas is right next to I-35 a few hours south of Dallas, a road that carries so much traffic, you will rarely get up to the speedlimit. Colorado has a facility that, if memory serves is right off I-70.

    Any solution that is sufficient to cut off all the prisoner cell phones is going to interfere with the use of cellphones nearby... like those people on that freeway next door.

    The freeway next to I-35 in Texas has posted signs (no joke) warning people to not pick up hitch hikers. They existed long before four prisoners escaped a few years back. Two or three of those prisoners made it out of state. One made it about a thousand miles.

    If they put in jammers, my suspicion is that the next prison break is going to involve prisoners walking up on to the freeway and using a rock to take out a windshield and a driver. I'm sure they'll say a few thanks for the cellphone jammers as they drive away and the other drivers realize they can't call 911...

    FWIW, if you want to get between DFW and the other major metros in Texas, like Austin, you've got roughly two choices: I-35 and a 350-400 plod along two lane Farm to Market roads frequented by farm tractors. Talk about a looong day.

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