WASHINGTON May 26 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