The Latest in Pants-Wetting Anti-Terrorism Legislation

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

In a unified display of bipartisan dimwittery, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are joining together to ban prepaid cell phones. Because an inept terrorist once used one in a failed plot.

If only we could get a terrorist to employ a reactionary, grandstanding politician in some future plot. Maybe Congress would finally ban those, too. Or at least no longer allow them on airplanes.

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42 Responses to “The Latest in Pants-Wetting Anti-Terrorism Legislation”

  1. #1 |  omar | 

    But Radelyyyyyyyyyy, only crimiiiiiiiiinils buy pre-paid cell phones!

    Also, I have never met a poor person.

  2. #2 |  B | 

    If only we could get a terrorist to employ a reactionary, grandstanding politician in some future plot.

    I’ve always been under the assumption that they were integral to everyterrorist plot. Thanks to reactionary politicians, the terrorists get to disrupt things even when they fail (and long after).

  3. #3 |  ALowe | 

    But Radley, think of the children! It’s not just terrorists who use prepaid cell phones – so do drug dealers and pedophiles. I’ve even herd that some of these prepaid phones can be used for sexting or even recording police officers surreptitiously. There can’t possibly be a legitimate use for such devices.

  4. #4 |  SJE | 

    Unintended consequences

    1. Foreign visitors (including tourists, business people, etc), would not be able to get a cell phone to work in USA. This harms business and tourism, as if the ridiculous TSA and border security charades are not enough to deter people. Remember: these are people who bring money to the USA, and are also the people who most need a cell phone if they get lost etc.

    2. Criminals will set up shell names or corporations to get a cell phone. As if organized crime didn’t already do this. Now, there is even more motivation to steal people’s identity, and/or their cell phone. Actually, this is a good motivation to kill people for their cell phone so it doesnt get immediately deactivated.

    3. The bad guys will go back to old school technology: radios, wires, or timers. Cell phones just happen to be convenient.

    What a crock!

  5. #5 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Joe Schmoe
    123 Fake Street
    Boston, NJ 96799

  6. #6 |  Chuchundra | 

    Barr is a doofus.

    Under the new proposal, buyers of prepaid cell phones would be required to present identification at the point of sale, and phone companies would have to keep the buyers’ information on file as they already do with users of landline phones and subscription-based cell phones.

    It’s not a ban on prepaid cell phones, it’s a ban on anonymous use of prepaid cell phones.

  7. #7 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I think telcos went to government and said, “Hey, we need legislation banning prepaid cell phones ’cause we make lots more money when we sell plans.” Then, of course, they negotiated the price for the legislation, cooked up a reason to justify it, shook hands, and went down to the bar for cocktails to toast their own brilliance.

    The only reason I have a cell phone is because I can get it for less than $10 per month.

  8. #8 |  Charlie O | 

    I guess this puts my 77-year-old (today) mother on the terrorist watch list. She switched to pre-paid because she couldn’t afford one with plan and she just didn’t use the minutes. Her cell is mostly to carry for emergencies and to call me long distance. I then hang up and call her back on her land line (I’m cell only) so she doesn’t burn up her minutes.

    The idea that only terrorists and criminals are the only ones who use prepaid cellphones is remarkedly and profoundly idiotic. Downright moronic. But then look who is on that train, John Cornyn. Glad I left Texas.

  9. #9 |  TDR | 

    @#6: Barr refers to the anonymity issue:

    “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. ”

    Since he wrote this several days ago, it’s possible that the Sens. changed their original plans. You can’t hold someone accountable for not knowing precisely the meaning of something that hasn’t been written down or finalized.

    And Barr’s point still stands: even if all you do is get rid of anonymity, why should we have to live in a world where you can’t be anonymous? How can you say you have a right to privacy if someone, somewhere, believes there should be SOME way of tracking EVERYTHING you do?

  10. #10 |  TDR | 

    Also, I’d say that on any given day, there’s a better than 50/50 chance that Schumer is a sleazy liar.

  11. #11 |  TDR | 

    Sorry for overposting, but I just read the link to Schumer’s page, and it is THE worst-written press release I have ever seen. Absolutely ridiculous. I think we need a law to ban illiterates and their employers from federal service.

  12. #12 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #9 TDR

    …why should we have to live in a world where you can’t be anonymous?

    The answer is obvious. Anonymous people must be hiding something.

    As kind of an aside, one of the things I hate most on message boards and blogs is when someone complains about a poster using an alias. Basically, the implication is that, you’re gutless and sneaky if you have “hide” behind an alias. I rarely use an alias, but the interesting thing about comments is that the words mean exactly the same thing regardless of whether you know who said them. I use only my first name on my sex hysteria website because I want to be relatively free to voice controversial positions without the fear of being alienated from important entities (like my employer). Once upon a time when I came to a fork in the road, instead of taking the one less traveled (marked Martyr), I took the one well worn (marked Pussy).

  13. #13 |  Captain Noble | 

    I suggest we ban air because I have it on good authority that terrorists are using it as an essential part of their plots.

  14. #14 |  Kristen | 

    I have a friend from the Netherlands by way of South Africa who will be taking a 2-month road trip around the US. Wonder if she’ll end up on some useless yet invasive “watch list” because she’ll need to use prepaids to communicate while she’s here.

  15. #15 |  RLemburg | 

    You should have to register anytime you go to a McDonalds because terrorists use it for food!

  16. #16 |  Bob | 

    What’s next? Make it illegal to pay for stuff with cash?

  17. #17 |  SJE | 

    Kristen: the fact that your friend has visited more than one country overseas would seem to be probable cause to put her on a terrorist watch list. That whole “road trip” excuse- yeah, sure- that’s just code for scoping out places for your friend to execute her heinous crimes. And you are helping her…

    [I think we need a SWAT raid on Kristen’s house now….]

  18. #18 |  Aresen | 

    Bob | June 10th, 2010 at 6:33 pm
    What’s next? Make it illegal to pay for stuff with cash?

    We’re already past it: That is what the “money laundering” laws are all about.

  19. #19 |  Kristen | 

    [I think we need a SWAT raid on Kristen’s house now….]

    Oh shit…better hide my dangerous, threatening Pug right now! And the dangerous 15-year-old cat!

  20. #20 |  Kristen | 

    Also, while my friend has visted many countries, she’s actually from South Africa and is now a Dutch citizen. You know they have legal weed over there. They’re all terra-ists!

  21. #21 |  Why There is No Difference! « Oh, My! | 

    […] I won’t bother with Chuckie Boy, he went terminal long ago, but you, Mr. Cornyn—please explain in detail the given portion of the Constitution that justifies this unmitigated fecal matter. (via Radley) […]

  22. #22 |  SJE | 

    Ah, so you admit it!

  23. #23 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    If only we could get a terrorist to employ a reactionary, grandstanding politician in some future plot.

    Oh, they use them all right. They use them and we’re paying the price.

  24. #24 |  Kao_Pai | 

    My brother-in-law lives in a group home in another state. He’s a nice guy who likes to keep in touch with family, and prepaid phones are great for him because he loses or breaks at least a couple of them every year. My spouse just pays for additional minutes or will buy and ship him another phone when he needs one. I wonder what kind of punishment they have in mind for people that buy a prepaid phone, anonymously or not, and then give it to another party without first notifying the proper phone monitoring authorities. Even better, they could add prepaid phones to the NFA registry and really clamp down. “Sure, you can transfer that phone, just pay the $200 tax stamp, fill out the forms, submit fingerprints and get your local Sheriff to sign off.”

  25. #25 |  GT | 

    @Dave Krueger (if that’s your real name… har har)

    It’s impossible to disagree with the point you make; if our personality belongs to us, then we ought to be permitted to deploy it without identifying ourselves as we see fit.

    That said, I often have a dig at anonymous posters who use it as a mechanism to pursue ad hominem attacks: the one that springs to mind for me was undertaken by someone calling themselves ‘getreal’ over on TruthOut (or CommonDreams – I forget)… I argued against something in a George Monbiot essay, and the next comment was this ‘getreal’ smart-ass trying to do a smear job using my LinkedIn resumé. (The comment I made was about the malleability of climate models – as someone with a long background in ECONOMIC modelling, I pointed out that they can be made to sing whatever tune the modeller wishes, and furthermore that while the Left derides economic modelling as stupid and simplistic, they cling to climate modelling like Moses to his tablets).

    Anyhow – it was a trifle to get the person’s actual identity and resolve the issue (using market mechanisms), and I doubt that the person concerned will do the same thing again in a hurry.

    I’m an ‘untrammelled free speech’ guy, so I would never ask that an offensive anonymous hit-piece be removed… but I also reserve the right to track down anyone who shits me, and retaliate the fuck out of them.

    As a long-time promoter of the Project 729 BDS “private sanctions” movement, I have had to deal with anonymous megaphonies trailing me around the internet, too – makign all manner of allegations (some funny, some outrageous). People who take up government offers to be a shill should realise that private actors are WAY better at finding out where a post originates.

    And it can all be organised – from order to payment – pseudonymously. Yay.

    Jim Bell got it exactly right… which is why he’s still in prison on trumped up charges.



  26. #26 |  GT | 

    Actually, that made me have an interesting thought, given that I am a big supporterr of Innocence Projects. Here in Australia they have a terribly hard time – the one in one state that found someone who is almost certainly innocent, had their funding cut off within a couple of months of making that discovery. As usual the guy was not paroled (for 18 years) because he refused to admit guilt and elocute.

    Anyhow – that’s by way of background: I was thinking more in terms of my claimed right to organise ‘adverse life events’ for people who annoy me. It struck me that they don’t ever have a chance at an Innocence Project (there is no Court of Appeal, either), and for the briefest second I felt bad… but the ‘adverse life events’ that I might arrange don’t have lasting consequences – no deaths, maimings, or reputational assaults (for example).

    Still, it goes to show – when the State takes a young man and turns him into a trained sociopathic killer (yep – I’m ex-military), there are all manner of long-tailed consequences.



  27. #27 |  JS | 

    TDR “And Barr’s point still stands: even if all you do is get rid of anonymity, why should we have to live in a world where you can’t be anonymous? How can you say you have a right to privacy if someone, somewhere, believes there should be SOME way of tracking EVERYTHING you do?”


    It’s scary that now it may actually be the majority of American people who believe there should be some way of tracking everything you do.

  28. #28 |  C. Andrew | 

    Pants-Wetting Anti-Terrorism Legislation

    So, take the beginning letters. PWATL. Say them out loud.

    Sounds like “prattle” with a speech impediment. I like it. It’s so descriptive of just about everything coming out of congress nowadays.

  29. #29 |  Peter Ramins | 

    Terrorists HAVE been using reactionary grandstanding politicians. For decades.

    And vice-versa.

  30. #30 |  nicrivera | 

    This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with bipartisanship.

    If bipartisanship was about civil libertarian liberals and small government conservatives working together to repeal unjust laws, it would be a great thing.

    Instead, bipartisanship tends to be about big government nanny state liberals working together with big government right wing moralists to find yet more things to criminalize and yet more useless laws to pass.

    Regretable but hardly surprising.

  31. #31 |  Ray | 

    They watched that last Bourne movie, and took it a little too seriously.

  32. #32 |  Ben | 

    Don’t worry, everybody, your congresspeople know about holograms.

  33. #33 |  Duncan20903 | 

    Not too much worry about this passing, how else would the Members get in touch with their mistresses in a discreet manner? Go back to using pay telephones? Hah!

  34. #34 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #22 GT

    @Dave Krueger (if that’s your real name… har har)

    Anyhow – it was a trifle to get the person’s actual identity…

    Yeah, just using my first name is a very small impediment to someone who wants to find out who I am. If someone does a search on, they will almost certainly land here at theagitator and find my last name attached to every post. They will also find my identity by looking up the domain since my webhost will not hide it for .com domains. My reasons for using .com instead of .org eludes me right now, but I own both.

    But, your point is well taken. Anonymity shouldn’t be a blanket license to escape responsibility for injurious or criminal behavior. The kind of anonymity I would like to see more of is the kind that protects us from government visibility. That means government has no business tracking our behavior without cause to suspect we have committed a crime. By “crime” I mean a real crime rather than the ones they make up to punish sociopolitical non-conformity (gambling, drugs, sex work, etc). As part of that, I don’t want the government having the power to access private databases without a narrowly targeted warrant. Only an idiot devises rules forcing privately owned businesses to maintain privacy and then insists that very same information be easily accessible by government. But, unfortunately, that’s what is going on in the U.S. today.

  35. #35 |  chris y | 

    As I recall, the far from inept terrorists in who carried out the Madrid train bombings used mobile phones to detonate their explosives six years ago. If you wanted to look at the question of cellphone sales, that was the time to do it. The fact that this pair have suddenly decided to introduce this bill now is a clear statement that they’re all about grandstanding and know nothing and care less about security.

  36. #36 |  albatross | 

    I think for immunity to retaliation by the powerful, including plausibly deniable government retaliation–tax audits, raids on your house based on “unreliable informants,” being added to the no-fly list, etc., you need strong pseudonymity. Strong anonymity plus a persistent public key used to sign all your messages works here.

    Alas, strong anonymity is hard to do well, especially against serious attackers who are willing to run/compromise/monitor a few endpoints in your mix net. And when only a few people use such a net, being one of the users itself makes you a suspect….

  37. #37 |  albatross | 

    I believe there is also a push to ban these phones in Mexico, presumably as part of the fight against the drug gangs there.

    My guess is that there are some automated analytical tools the authorities are wanting to use, which benefit from having real names attached to most phones. If you want to build a graph of who talks to whom, it’s really nice to have a database with the names of all the phone owners in it. And most of your information will still be useful even when the serious bad guys and paranoids put in fake names.

    I think almost nobody understands just how powerful and useful that kind of information can be. I would bet a lot of money that someone in the president’s office has printouts of those graphs for a number of prominent and irritating or very influential journalists.

  38. #38 |  Marta Rose | 

    i’m kinda hating schumer these days anyway. thanks for further ammo… sigh.

  39. #39 |  Dave Krueger | 

    When I buy raw chemicals for my darkroom, I have to fill out a report for many of them that goes to the DEA. The report needs to clearly specifiy the exact formula that I intend to use them in.

    Essentially, any activity that can be even remotely linked to an illegal act is fair game for government monitoring, regulation, or an outright ban. There is only one kind of privacy left in this country and that’s the privacy that comes from the impossibility of their being able to monitor everyone all the time. And computers are putting an end to that privacy as well.

    It’s only a matter of time before they will be able to enter your SSN into a computer and instantly make you disappear. But only of they declare you an enemy combatant first.

  40. #40 |  Mick Savage | 

    I’m a gringo with property in Mexico.
    Last year the Calderon moronic administration passed laws requiring every mobile phone to be “registered”. I never bothered to find out why, I just switched to magic jack.
    The idiots down there have taken their Amerikkan drug war money and used it on nifty toys like blackhawk helicopters and require fingerprints at checkpoints heading to Cabo on the sole highway crossing the Baja.
    Thanks Hillary Clinton and president hopey changey for more idiotic drug war crap.
    With the shooting of the 14 year old kid in Juarez and the beating to death of another guy at the crossing in San Ysidro and the shooting by the military years ago of the goat herder in Texas, I think it is quite clear that we are all turrurists now, and subject to puppycide.
    I can’t keep up with the lies emanating from the feds about any of the murders, er, I mean resisting arrest or smuggling stories.

  41. #41 |  Chuck C | 

    @13: and don’t forget, they breathe that air anonymously.

  42. #42 |  Samk | 

    Eh, anonymity is like locks on your doors. Criminals with any serious intent are barely even slowed down by them but they “keep honest people honest”. I don’t want every retard with thirty seconds on his hands flippantly digging around in my business if it’s possible to avoid it. Decoding anonymity online requires a bit of knowledge and a little bit of both time and effort. Not much, but it derails the worst vagaries of capricious humanity. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we keep that little speed bump.