Prepaid cellphones are dangerous weapons, say senators

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Times Square car bomber was aided in his attempt by the fact that he was wearing shoes, leading to a call from two US senators to make people register before buying footwear.

Oh, sorry, we meant prepaid mobile phones.

Under a bill proposed by Chuck Schumer and  John Cornyn, buyers would have to show ID and vendors would be required to keep the information to allow law enforcement bodies to trace the phones.

"While most Americans use pre-paid mobile devices lawfully, the anonymous nature of these devices gives too much cover to individuals looking to use them for deviant, dangerous means," says Cornyn.

"It would be foolish to stand idly by while the risk remains that another terrorist or criminal could purchase a pre-paid phone leaving no paper trail."

Apparently, the fact that "terrorists, drug kingpins and gang members" use prepaid mobile phones makes them inherently dangerous. They're used by other dodgy people too, says Cornyn - including hedge fund managers and Wall Street executives implicated in the largest insider trading bust in US history.

Quite a few countries already require registration, including such bastions of individual freedom as Indonesia and Singapore. There have been calls to do the same in several states. But Schumer and Cornyn believe there should be a nationwide requirement.

"We caught a break in catching the Times Square terrorist, but usually a prepaid cell phone is a dead end for law enforcement," said Schumer.  "There’s no reason why it should still be this easy for terror plotters to cover their tracks."