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Diallo writes: "Adopted without public notice or debate, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 303, often referred to as the cellphone kill switch, has been shrouded in secrecy from its inception and has outraged some civil liberties groups battling to make the policy public."

San Francisco and Oakland's Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) blocked cell phone signals in an effort to control mobs and protesters in 2011. (photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)
San Francisco and Oakland's Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) blocked cell phone signals in an effort to control mobs and protesters in 2011. (photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)


Obama Administration Fights for Right to Use Cellphone Kill Switch

By Amadou Diallo, Al Jazeera America

26 April 15

 

White House hopes courts don’t take away federal power to knock out cellphone network for security reasons

or nearly a decade, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has maintained a policy for unilaterally shutting down private cellular service, over an entire metropolitan area if necessary, in the event of a national crisis.

Adopted without public notice or debate, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 303, often referred to as the cellphone kill switch, has been shrouded in secrecy from its inception and has outraged some civil liberties groups battling to make the policy public.

A key hearing in that fight is set for next week.

“We have no clue what’s in it or what it’s about,” says Harold Feld, the senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a public interest advocacy group. In 2012 the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed suit in federal court seeking disclosure of information about SOP 303’s basic guidelines and policy procedures.

Using the argument that releasing any information about SOP 303 would risk public safety, the DHS prevailed in an appeals court after a lower court ruled in favor of making the policy public. In March of this year, however, EPIC’s petition for a rehearing of that appellate court decision was allowed to proceed, with the court issuing an April 27 deadline for the government to respond.

The roots of SOP 303 can be traced to the 2005 London subway attacks, in which suicide bombers used their cellphones to detonate underground explosives. Immediately after that attack, U.S. authorities disabled cellular service in New York City’s Hudson River commuter tunnels for almost two weeks. This unprecedented shutdown was made without notice to the public or even wireless carriers. The result, by the DHS’ admission was, “disorder for both government and the private sector at a time when use of the communications infrastructure was most needed.”

Seeking a more coordinated response, in May 2006 the department’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee approved a set of protocols governing future cellular network shutdowns.

Precisely who has the authority to initiate a shutdown is unclear. According to one of the few public documents describing any aspect of SOP 303, a shutdown request may come from “state Homeland Security advisers, their designees or representatives of the DHS homeland security operations center.” SOP 303 tasks a DHS subagency, the National Coordinating Center for Communications, with asking “a series of questions to determine if the shutdown is a necessary action” before notifying the affected cellular carriers. Just what those questions are remains a secret.

Critics of SOP 303 argue that cellular communication is simply too vital to the public, particularly in times of emergency, to be shut off. Especially if the guidelines for doing so remain secret. “I don’t see any situation where you want to shut down the [cellular] phone network,” says Feld. “In the years since 9/11 we have moved all our critical public safety services onto the cellular network.”

Others question the counterterrorism benefits of shutting down cell service, pointing out that in previous attacks, bombers have detonated devices using their phones’ alarm clock feature, a method that does not require a cellular connection.

Civil liberties groups fear that such far-reaching and unchecked power could be used simply to quell dissent. That’s exactly what happened in August 2011 when officials of Northern California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system utilized its kill switch to temporarily shut off cellphone service in several subway stations. The shutdown wasn’t in response to a terrorist threat. Its purpose was to prevent a demonstration that organizers planned to hold in those stations protesting a fatal subway shooting by a BART police officer.

“We want the guidelines to be released,” says Alan Butler, an EPIC lawyer who has been involved with the court case from the start. “We want information about the scope of the rules and the questions [DHS] would ask before deactivating service.” Noting that in the BART shutdown there was neither a public threat nor a request to cellular providers to suspend service — BART engineers shut off underground signal amplifiers — he wonders what protocols were followed. “[DHS] is supposed to be coordinating [these] functions. If that didn’t happen here … if there was a procedure in place and it wasn’t used, the question is, Why not?”

In response to the government’s claim that disclosure could allow a bad actor to insert himself in the shutdown process, Butler says, “What we’re asking for is really high-level stuff. We’re not asking for detailed information about how [SOP 303] works … but about the rationale and the policy guidelines.”

“Understanding a policy should not compromise national security,” agrees Feld.

Asked to explain the decision to withhold even basic procedural information about SOP 303 from the public, a DHS representative replied, “We have no comment on this.”


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+29 # Billy Bob 2015-04-26 18:15
Another puzzle piece needed to instate martial law.

And, to think that those of us who were paying attention in the '80s were accused of being "looney conspiracy theorists", when we discussed people like Ollie North and his (poorly kept) "secret" plans to do things just like this!
 
 
+4 # Radscal 2015-04-27 11:36
Indeed. The "Continuity of Government" program was partially revealed during the Iran/Contra hearings.

Another piece of the puzzle is the Emergency Broadcasting System. We old-timers remember when tests were run every week wherein all broadcast radio and TV programming was preempted to take control of the airwaves.

"This is a Test. Had this been a real emergency, you would be directed to...."

In those days, each individual station had to manually connect to the EBS, which is why the tests were necessary.

Well, now that almost all TV and much of radio is piped to us through cable or satellite, the EBS is remotely controlled from their central hub. Local stations are helpless in stopping them.

So, EBS could broadcast emergencies that aren't really happening. That's even "better" than relying on their Project Mockingbird infiltrators to present biased or false information.

Or, more insidiously, they can block local reporting of actual events and just keep piping us the Kardashians.

For instance, protests in NYC could be largely disappeared by turning off cell phones and internet and blocking local news coverage.

The militarized police could be conducting mass arrests, or the National Guard could be doing much worse, and the rest of the country would be watching/listen ing to their favorite programs, blissfully unaware.
 
 
+9 # RnR 2015-04-26 19:48
Uhhh...the "Big O and Co" is out of control.
 
 
+5 # lewagner 2015-04-27 03:27
Next what? The right to bomb a US city?
 
 
-19 # RLF 2015-04-27 06:12
While I hate that this is possible by national security decree...it is a f#*king cell phone...can't use it?...Big f#8king deal!
 
 
+10 # randrjwr 2015-04-27 09:47
Quoting RLF:
While I hate that this is possible by national security decree...it is a f#*king cell phone...can't use it?...Big f#8king deal!


Perhaps if you or a loved one (if you have any) were having a heart attack or other medical emergency and needed to call 911, you might think (if you actually do that) differently about how big a "f#8king" deal a cell phone can be.
 
 
+10 # Anonymot 2015-04-27 07:37
It would certainly have been shut off after an event like 9/11 by the brilliant people at Fatherland Express.

I was trapped in the WTF rubble for 5 1/2 hours and couldn't get my phone to work until about midnight. Let me tell you, that's what cell phones are for not just garbage calls.
 
 
+16 # lorenbliss 2015-04-27 07:49
This proves what I've been telling techno-worshipe rs for at least 30 years. That far from facilitating the revolution they so ignorantly, even delusionally imagine, what electronic technology like computers and cellphones actually does is give the government the ability to shut down dissent or resistance literally by the flick of a switch.

Wake up, people. That $500 cell phone for which you just went into hock is nothing but a tool of your enslavement -- an electronic concentration-c amp shackle you've foolishly learned to love. And the freedom you imagine it gives you is pure delusion -- a phantasm that can be terminated forever by nothing more than bureaucratic whim.
 
 
+5 # RLF 2015-04-27 09:34
Hear! Hear!
 
 
+7 # randrjwr 2015-04-27 09:48
Quoting lorenbliss:
This proves what I've been telling techno-worshipers for at least 30 years. That far from facilitating the revolution they so ignorantly, even delusionally imagine, what electronic technology like computers and cellphones actually does is give the government the ability to shut down dissent or resistance literally by the flick of a switch.

Wake up, people. That $500 cell phone for which you just went into hock is nothing but a tool of your enslavement -- an electronic concentration-camp shackle you've foolishly learned to love. And the freedom you imagine it gives you is pure delusion -- a phantasm that can be terminated forever by nothing more than bureaucratic whim.


Not to mention using the computers and associated electronic technology for messing with the voting results in elections at all levels.
 
 
+5 # Radscal 2015-04-27 11:41
All true, lorenbliss.

But on the bright side, even if they kill our cell phones so we cannot make or receive calls, Big Brother could still use them as the surveillance/tr acking devices which they are. /s
 
 
+1 # lorenbliss 2015-04-28 01:16
Probably yet another reason the Ruling Class wants to exterminate us seniors as quickly as possible -- note how we're increasingly targeted by genocide disguised as "austerity" -- is that we remember old spook-proof technologies like manual typewriters and hand-cranked ditto machines.

We also remember how to use them...
 
 
+7 # moafu@yahoo.com 2015-04-27 08:42
If ever the Left and the Right should join forces this is the cause. Also, it's a reason for the Right to support RSN. You won't hear this on main stream media (including Fox News).

"The responsibility of a Patriot is to protect his country from its government"
Thomas Paine
 
 
0 # CelticNavigator 2015-04-27 13:37
FEMA List of Presidential Orders for Martial Law. Click on each blue link to read the full executive order. Note that only the LAST one has to be signed for all of them to go into effect.

http://www.sweetliberty.org/issues/eo/femalist.htm#.VT6PfiFViko
 
 
+1 # Radscal 2015-04-27 14:53
That site is off to a bad start. It starts by listing JFK Executive Orders granting FEMA powers going back to 1962.

But FEMA was created by Carter through the Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders on April 1, 1979.

Still, the overall idea that creation of the Shadow Government with extra-Constitut ional powers has been an incremental series of Executive, Legislative and Judicial actions is certainly true.

A good place to look for the origins is the 1947 National Security Act which created the NSA, then gave us CIA and ECHELON, the first automatic mass-surveillan ce program.

And of course, these powers have continued to expand right through the Obama Administration.
 
 
+2 # CelticNavigator 2015-04-27 16:40
Let us not nit-pick, my friend. The important thing here is that those executive orders are 1) incredibly draconian and 2) still very much in effect.

I thought folks might like to learn that any and all food, vehicles and fuel supplies can be confiscated and we can be placed in forced work battalions and separated from our families.

Kinda makes losing our cell phone reception look like a damned walk in the park, now, doesn't it?
 
 
+2 # Radscal 2015-04-27 17:30
I don't mean to come off as disagreeing. I followed through and looked at some of the EOs listed there, and yeah, they are frightening, dangerous things.

Somewhere I read an even longer list of EOs, Legislative actions and Federal Court rulings all geared towards creating and implementing martial law.

I know he's not too popular here (a greatly understated observation), but Alex Jones has done some great work exposing these sorts of things.

And that's why I mentioned correcting the opening error. Folks will often blow off important information if they find some excuse.

Keep fighting the good fight!
 
 
+2 # CelticNavigator 2015-04-27 19:38
"Just because you are paranoid does not mean that they are not after you."

Nothing like the possibility of nuclear war or something similar, like the Internet or economy crashing, for the creation of such monstrous measures, eh? In 1962 I marched home with 2nd-grade classmates in futile H-Bomb air raid drills during the AMERICAN Missile Crisis that we started by placing missiles in range of Moscow first.

Wright-Patterso n AFB in Dayton was high on the Soviets' target list and my dad worked there. He said the Crisis really got real for him when he didn't see a single plane at the base - they had all been flown to smaller airports and bases around the country.

Most folks don't realize that our superhighway system was designed as emergency aircraft landing strips: Bulldozers knock down light poles, and even the biggest planes can land and take off from them.
 
 
0 # professor 2015-04-27 20:26
In Germany the Autobahn was designed for use as runways for airplanes. In the US the interstate highway system was proposed by Eisenhower because he saw how helpful the Autobahn was to transportation in general. The Law to build the interstate highways was able to be justified (constitutional ly) because the highways were designated as national defense highways. They are not built with the strength or capability of becoming runways for airplanes, but they can be closed to all civilian traffic in the event of a national defense emergency. That possibility of closure is not known to a majority of Americans.
 
 
0 # CelticNavigator 2015-04-28 05:50
Our freeways will serve just fine as airfields in emergencies, friend. Not as permanent airfields, granted, but for rare emergencies, they will do just fine, thank you.
 
 
0 # Radscal 2015-04-27 22:53
Why have I never heard it referred to as the "American Missile Crisis?"

Brilliant!
 
 
0 # CelticNavigator 2015-04-28 02:30
For the same reason the removal of our missiles in Turkey along the Russian border a few months after Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba was not widely publicized. Few folks here wanted to admit it was a Mexican Standoff and we both "blinked."

One woman and one book, self-taught Pulitzer historian Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August (1914), that detailed the male-dominant insanity that sparked the horrific meat grinder of World War One may have saved our asses in 1962. JFK had just read it and slammed copies of it on the desks of his gung-ho generals and advisors who were arguing for a nuke First Strike, since we had a 5 to 1 numerical superiority in missiles.

As a result, Tuchman was one of the first women invited into powerful American think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations. Her daughter Jessica Tuchman Mathews has served with distinction in the CFR, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Bilderberg Group and as Undersecretary of State. She would be a great VP candidate for Liz Warren or Bernie Sanders, both of whom need a veteran Washington "insider" to appeal to the Bilderberg presidential kingmakers that created Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and chose Barak Obama over Hillary in 2008.

Every admin, Rep or Dem, since Wilson's has had approx. 400 CFR members in it. This is why presidents are largely puppets, unable to radically change the course of the American Aircraft Carrier of State... it ain't a rowboat, my friends.
 

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