December 1, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Company challenges FCC rules on cell phone-jamming gear

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A small Florida company is taking on the Federal Communications Commission to change regulations prohibiting the sale of equipment used to scramble cell phone signals to local and state agencies.

The company, CellAntenna, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta on November 22 challenging the Communications Act of 1934, which is enforced by the FCC. The 1934 act and the FCC regulations that go along with it prohibit the use of cellular and radio frequency-jamming equipment, except by federal agencies. This means that local and state officials are not permitted to use such equipment, which could be used to help prevent terrorist attacks.

"In order to effectively and safely execute a raid on a house, you need the element of surprise."
--Mathew Lamita, police department, Dearborn, Mich.

CellAntenna argues that the Communications Act and the FCC regulations that interpret the law are unconstitutional because they are in conflict with the Homeland Security Act of 2002, adopted by Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

It's widely known in the intelligence and law enforcement communities that cell phones can be used to remotely detonate some types of bombs. The electrical properties for most batteries used today in cell phones provide enough energy to produce the necessary spark or power to detonate a blasting cap or a modified electrical match, which is often used in plastic explosives. Also, built-in alarms and timing mechanisms available on even low-end cell phones make it easy to use even the simplest and cheapest mobile devices as tools to set off bombs.

Cell phones are believed to have been used in the Madrid train bombings in 2004. And they've been used effectively during the past few years by insurgents to trigger roadside explosions in Iraq. Equipment made by companies such as CellAntenna that can jam or block cellular signals is used by the U.S. military in Iraq to help protect convoys traveling through known trouble spots.

But here in the United States only federal government agencies are allowed to use cell phone scrambling equipment. Local and state law enforcement agencies, which would be the first responders to a terrorist attack here at home, are prohibited by law from obtaining such gear.

"It just doesn't make much sense that the FBI can use this equipment, but that the local and state governments, which the Homeland Security Act has acknowledged as being an important part of combating terrorism, cannot," said Howard Melamed, chief executive of CellAntenna. "We give local police guns and other equipment to protect the public, but we can't trust them with cellular-jamming equipment? It doesn't make sense."

It is this point that is a key element in CellAntenna's argument in its case against the FCC.

"Whereas the FCC prohibits the sale of radio frequency and cellular jammers to state and local police departments, the Homeland Security Act consistently and repeatedly directs the Department of Homeland Security to take whatever measures are necessary to empower local law enforcement agencies and first responders in the fight against global terrorism."

Other applications
Indeed, the Homeland Security Act specifically states that one of the functions of the Department of Homeland Security is to research, develop, test and evaluate for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies equipment that can be used "in counterterrorism, including devices and technology to disable terrorist devices."

While CellAntenna has based much of its case around the use of its gear to prevent terrorism, Melamed acknowledged the gear could be very useful to law enforcement officials in other capacities. For example, jamming equipment is used in Latin American and Caribbean prisons to prevent inmates from using cell phones to run criminal operations while they serve jail time. Prisons in the U.S., which are mostly run by the state, are prohibited from using such gear.

Mathew Lamita, a corporal with the Dearborn Police Department in Michigan agrees that cell phone-jamming equipment could be a big help. In addition to potentially disabling a bomb, he said, scrambling cell phone communications during a hostage crisis could also be useful.

Where the technology would likely get the most use is during narcotics raids, when officers could use equipment to locally disable cell phones and walkie-talkies used by lookouts in neighborhoods where drug busts are common, he added.

"In order to effectively and safely execute a raid on a house, you need the element of surprise," he said. "A single tip from someone calling on a cell phone or a walkie-talkie down the street can compromise the entire raid."

CONTINUED: Loosening restrictions…
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2 comments

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Thanks for the info,just what I need,it would be extremely useful.Cell phone jammers are inexpensive and should be implemented in prison. This would require a change in laws allowing such devices. The benefits are well worth it. more related info you can visit
http://www.espow.com/jammers/security-surveillance-jammer.html
Posted by DVRnancy (1 comment )
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I like on "High Tech Ridge" a repidly growing suburb of a rapidly growing hip high tech city. On the nearby main artery , Parmer Lane, a 6 lane divided highways there are 2 large Dell factories (ther must be twenty in a 10 mile radius), and the closest is a gigantic Samsung chip fabe plant. My house is maybe 300 yds from the edge of the Samsung property which has been granted special security status by the Dept of Home Defense. You are not allowed to take pictures of any part of the complex even from across the street and not on their property. This security insanity includes pictures of fences or patches of grass on the Samsung property. You have no civil rights according to the security guards who wo descend on you as soon as you step out or your car with a camera even if you are 50 feet from the Samsung property. The stomps on my my civil right in such a gross and unjustified manner if defies all reason and any semblance of common sense. There is not a single law in thie country that prohibits photography of anything when you are on public property. The streets are clearly public property property. The government has simply gone way too far in violating our civilr rights whenever they damned well please. They give 9/11 as an excuse, but since it has been 10 years since a success full attack on US soil, that is totally lame, especially when the evidence is mounting that Bush conspired with the Saudis to "allow" 9/11 to get the American people riled up enough to support a war in the middle east. So there was no random terrorist attack in the first place, the President and a few people in the CIA knew about from the moment the plan began. When astute agents discovered unusual data about the eventual perps, that information was conveniently was lost or evaluated and determined to be insignificant by supervisors, many agents quit because they were doing good work and they knew it. They also instinctively knew that something nefarious was going on and they didn't want to be par of it , because of potential for being blamed. So many good veteran agent quit.
But that not my current complaint. Samsung's jamming of all frequencies plays havok with my high tech equipment. No Bluetoothe gadget have ever worked, and I have spent hundreds of hours troubleshooting several products. I addition there are times when my wife cannot reach me by either my T-mobile of Spring 4G android phones. I have made multiple trips to the vendors and the phones have be repaired and replaced even though neither compaany ever found anything but very minor problems problems, non of which accounted for the erratic behavior of the phones.
Now, the important part: I am 64 years old and was forced to retire becuase of medical problems and I have been declared permanent disabled. I must have have reliable communication for access to emergency medical care or I could die. Does Samsung's really NEED to jam my cill phones which are a
substantial didtance from thier plant? I don't think so, I don't think they could defend the policy and esxtreme application of it in a wrongfulll death suit. How many people have to die as a result of their careless "overjamming" before they change their ridiculous policy in the first place???
What can I do to get them to modify their signal strength so I am not endangered? Or has the federal government given them permisssion to stomp all over my rights just as they do? Does the Constitution mean anything to any boby in government anymor???. Sadly, the answer appears to be that the constitution means nothing almost on a daily basis?
Morris Creedon-McVean, D.O.
16426 Timber Heights
Austin, Texas 78754

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Posted by Mogenie (1 comment )
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