Patriot Act

Terrorists Stole My Pre-Paid Cell Phone

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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:

Also, he breathes! Rumor even has it that he eats!

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:

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  1. I see criminals use prepaid, untraceable cell phones on L&O SVU all the time, and it makes it hard for Stabler to hunt them down and beat confessions out of them. There is no civil liberties problem with this, because we know they’re guilty. We SAW THEM COMMIT THE CRIME.

    Prepaid phones are therefore an abomination against our betters in government, who are only trying to protect us.

    1. I got the idea from the Sopranos, stupid.

    2. It’s a good thing that someone can’t steal a bunch of pre-paid cell phones and sell them to crooks without the crooks having to sign up with Uncle Sammael.

  2. Could Shumer stop being an ignorant dickbag for just a little while? Not forever, I know that’s just impractical for him, but just a little while, maybe a week or so. He comes up with so many stupid ideas so quickly I can barely keep up.

    Shahzad used an SUV, firecracker, gas cans and propane tanks, too. Have a fun 4th of July cookout, Chuck.

    1. He’ll never stop. He’s like a Great White. He only knows one thing.

      1. The thought of thousands of little Chuck Schumer is sickening indeed.

        1. America is the Indianapolis and we’re the crew.

          1. As long as I get to deliver the Shaw monologue.

      2. A Great White is a) racist and b) a fish.

        Fish don’t feed their young milk, so you are going to have to do some fancy explaining about Chuck’s man boobs.

      3. Did he have anything to do with that fire?

    2. A Schumer that’s not a dickbag is like a day without sunshine. Checkmate.

    3. Could Shumer stop being an ignorant dickbag for just a little while alive?

      FIFY

  3. Fuck you Schumer. With a nail-studded Louisville Slugger.

    How much did ATT pay you to “think” of this?

    1. ATT is only concerned about preventing the next terrorist attack. Why do you hate America?

      1. Yeah, just last month I read about how poor AT&T is struggling to hold onto their contract customers due to the increased popularity of prepaid. Now a senator starts proclaiming the evils of prepaid… Makes me think.

        Irony of it all, I started using a NET10 prepaid phone because I wanted to get away from the evil that is AT&T! Lol!

    2. Yeah, just last month I read about how poor AT&T is struggling to hold onto their contract customers due to the increased popularity of prepaid. Now a senator starts proclaiming the evils of prepaid… Makes me think.

      Irony of it all, I started using a NET10 prepaid phone because I wanted to get away from the evil that is AT&T!

  4. It’s amazing burners weren’t banned long ago.

  5. Some people do so because they may not have the funds or the creditworthiness to buy a cell phone with a network plan.
    Or for their children who they don’t want on their regular plan so they can teach them budgeting and fiscal responsibility. Or for their mother in law who wants one just to use just in case her car breaks down. Or for…..

    1. Chuck, why do you hate poor people, families, and old people?

      1. They all smell weird.

  6. The business press has been hyping the improvements in service and price that the pre-paid operators have been putting forward while the big network carriers continue to treat you like a prisoner. I’ve blogged about it twice on my business journalism blog (linked above). What’s going to come out, eventually, is that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are paying off the Senators to wipe out their competition. If you look at the economics, it makes a lot of sense.

    1. Of course the “competition” all rent the network capacity from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile…

      1. Blame the FCC, not “the ‘competition'”.

  7. Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer

    *barf*

  8. Ever heard of a pay phone? Those are anonymous too, and less convenient for terrorists. The poor have equal access to them as well, unlike the cell phone market where rich people have itty bitty phones with touch screens and e-Ink and keyboards, while poor people, if they can even get phones, have ones that weight 10 pounds and deliver an electric shock to your ear whenever your voice pitch hits 360 Hz.

  9. About payphones:

    Years ago the local phone company ripped them all out. Now the only payphones are privately owned and hardly anywhere.

    So what now?

  10. My pre-paid cell phone is capable of automatic fire and has a silencer.

    Assault Telephony.

  11. I don’t think you can get a pre-paid without it being registered in your name these days. A friend got one not too long ago had to give info to get the simcard.

  12. Girlfriend dragged me to a vineyard over the weekend, and I bought a few bottles recommended to me by a friend into that sort of thing.

    I think I’ll save one of the bottles to be brought out for celebration on the day a boy escapes from Schumer’s basement.

    Like Nelson of Florida, what is it about senators that make them so super super out of bounds of reality into pure animated caricature sized creepy?

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