Cell Phone Bombs

How law enforcement can (and can't) prevent them.


A statement released by the National Communications System (NCS) expands further on the protocol. "The Department of Homeland Security — through the department's NCS — has coordinated with state officials on a voluntary plan for cellular service disruption in the event of a specific threat," the statement reads. "The recommendation has been approved following review by the Department of Homeland Security and was sent through the Department's State and Local Government Office to State Homeland Security Advisors for implementation. Details of the plan are not releasable for reasons of national security." The statement goes on to say that members of the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee addressed cellular service disruption via a series of recommendations for shutdown. These include a specific process to be followed after an order has been issued for disrupting cellular service.

In the future, Barry believes that the need to keep up with terrorist adaptations of cellular technology will push federal agencies to supply local agencies with jamming and other electronic countermeasures. "They might dispense it to attendees of hazardous device schools and training, or to agencies whose bomb technicians are on a list of certified personnel," he says. In other words, training everyone according to federal protocol will allow local agencies to retain some control over the equipment's use, but still meet their needs.

"The cause outweighs the risk to business," Melamed says. "Under the Federal Communications Act, a bomb has more rights than the people it will kill. Times have changed; the Act doesn't address national security." The bottom line, he says, is that law enforcement must be ahead of terrorists if they are to prevent and mitigate attacks effectively. "Everyone looks stupid, and are quick to say 'if only we had known' when people die — even though it could easily have been prevented with a jamming device."

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