As it sits right now if you want a cellular phone without having to be on a list (the phone company’s subscriber list in this case) the only way to go is pre-paid. In this case you walk into a store, grab a pre-paid cell phone, and pay for it using cash (it’s that funny green colored paper for those of you who only know how to pay for things using plastic cards). A couple of senators have decided that any means of avoiding the government knowing what you’re doing is a bad thing.
Senators Charles Schumer and John Cornyn have introduced legislation that would require people buying pre-paid cell phones to show identification and be recorded. For a quote from the stupid:
“This proposal is overdue because for years, terrorists, drug kingpins and gang members have stayed one step ahead of the law by using prepaid phones that are hard to trace,” Schumer said.
So now what? They’ll have to go back to either using phone booths or stolen cell phones? Face it this law won’t change anything, criminals are always one step ahead of the authorities. Oh but best of all:
Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old suspect in the Times Square plot, allegedly used a prepaid cellphone to arrange the purchase of a Nissan Pathfinder that he attempted to turn into a car bomb, the senators noted.
Wait a minutes doesn’t a car require tax, title, and license? That generally means you have to register it with the state. So how exactly would having a law preventing people from buying pre-paid cell phones without identification help? Oh that’s right it wouldn’t.
Let’s hear some concerns from the people who actually think things through:
Civil liberties advocates have concerns about the proposal, saying there must be a role for anonymous communications in a free society. “They remain important for whistleblowers, battered spouses, reporters’ sources,” said James X. Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. And yet, he said, the space for such anonymous or pseudonymous communications has been narrowed. Pay phones, for example, have largely disappeared.
Pre-paid cell phones obtained with cash are also useful to those who want to keep the government out of their business.
Thankfully there currently is no similar bill in the House. But I’m sure that will change in about two days since this is needed to “fight the terrorists” (terrorists being anybody who doesn’t step into line with the government).