Terrorists Stole My Pre-Paid Cell Phone


Former Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr notes that Faisal Shahzad's Times Square bombing attempt might be a causus belli for the federal government to make pre-paid cell phones illegal. Excerpt:

This innocuous device, available now to virtually anyone wishing to buy a cheap cell phone useable for a limited period, represents perhaps the last opportunity for a person to communicate anonymously.  Yet, these devices are being targeted for extinction by a pair of United States Senators simply because the failed Times Square bomber used one in his preparatory activities; and law enforcement discovered this not because the *purchase* of the cell phone was recorded in an accessible database, but because Shahzad made at least one call to a number already on a government list of suspected terrorists.

Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer now has teamed with his Republican colleague from Texas, John Cornyn, and introduced a bill that would employ the heavy hand of federal law to prohibit anonymous cell phones. […] [I]t is certain that many of their colleagues will jump at this latest chance to prove they are as tough on terrorists as the next guy, whatever the cost to the rest of the citizenry.

While Sens. Schumer and Cornyn may believe that the only people who purchase prepaid cell phones are terrorists, the fact is, many average, law-abiding citizens use such devices regularly.  Some people do so because they may not have the funds or the creditworthiness to buy a cell phone with a network plan.  Others may do so precisely because of the anonymity such phones offer; something especially important for journalists to be able to protect communications with their sources from being revealed.

Whole thing, including other civil liberties warnings, here; link via Barr's Twitter feed. The former Republican explained to Reason in 2003 and again in 2008 how voting for the PATRIOT Act hastened his turn to libertarianism. Watch his 2008 Reason.tv interview below: