US lawmakers push for ID to buy prepaid cell phones

WASHINGTON Wed May 26, 2010 3:54pm EDT

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WASHINGTON May 26 (Reuters) - Two U.S. senators proposed legislation on Wednesday to make it easier to identify buyers of prepaid cell phones, moving to close a loophole that had enabled criminal and terror suspects to avoid detection.

Under the proposal by Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican John Cornyn, buyers of the prepaid cell phones would have to produce identification at the time of purchase and phone companies would have to keep that information on file.

"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 in a statement. "There's no reason why it should still be this easy for terror plotters to cover their tracks."

In the most recent instance, the Pakistani-American accused of trying to ignite a car bomb in New York's Times Square, Faisal Shahzad, used a prepaid cell phone to make calls to Pakistan, according to the lawmakers.

When authorities matched a phone number in the call log on the device with a number given to U.S. Customs officials, they were able to trace it back to Shahzad, they said.

"A major lesson we've learned from the investigation and arrest of Faisal Shahzad is that we must require individuals purchasing a prepaid cell phone in this country to provide verified identifying information," Cornyn said.

Prepaid cell phones also have been used in alleged financial crimes. U.S. prosecutors in New York said some of the defendants in the Galleon Group hedge fund insider trading case used prepaid cell phones to avoid detection by authorities.

"We are reviewing the draft and look forward to working with the senators on this issue," Steve Largent, the head of CTIA-The Wireless Association, said in a statement. (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by David Alexander and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (2)
federal wrote:
What is being done about corrupt law enforcement who abuse access to people cellphones using the easy access to anyones phone by using tools trusted to them being an officer or agent they go snooping into people phones
who are not criminals say a person is sleeping with a girl a law officer is interested in so the cop goes snooping for dirt by accessing the persons phone illegally in some cases law enforcement makes cases on innocent people so they can go snooping on peoples phones they have grudges with over girls or silly matters not criminal matters this phone monitoring is highly abused by law enforcement for person reasons not legal issues but it causes legal issues on over silly drama what is being done about that cops sharing personal data about folks to trash and judge them information gotten but corrupt cops and fbi agents using systems and tools they have access to that is supposed to be used only to track people who blow up stuff

May 27, 2010 3:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
edross wrote:
Everyone seems up in arms about this measure. Very few people who just want a cheaper option for phones should have any problem with this, its the way prepaid works in most other countries (that I’ve been to). The same rules for listening in on someone’s phone still apply dont they? So what we’re really facing is the choice of losing prepaid phones and going back to contracts, or providing ID upon buying a new phone. I for one would never give up my Net10 phone, and the savings and freedom it gives me, just in order to keep an already flimsy feeling of anonymity.

May 28, 2010 7:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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