Federal Government Ordered to Explain Why it Needs a Cell Phone Kill Switch

April 28, 2015   |   Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler
April 28, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Washington, D.C. — Monday is the court-ordered deadline for the government to explain a secretive policy that allows it to use a “kill switch” on cell phone service among the population. The policy, adopted by the Department of Homeland Security in 2005, is called Standard Operating Procedure 303 and allows

“…for the orderly shut-down and restoration of wireless services during critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

It allows the government to cut service “within a localized area, such as a tunnel or bridge, and within an entire metropolitan area.” The policy comes with a murky, questionable history.

The implementation of the policy was a reaction to the 2005 London subway bombing and was deemed necessary for national security. In 2005, all cell service in New York’s Hudson Tunnel was cut off for two weeks—a move that by the DHS’s own admission created

“disorder for both Government and the private sector at a time when use of the communications infrastructure was most needed.”

Due to the secrecy surrounding the policy, there is no concrete documentation to suggest that SOP 303 has been used to cut cell service. In 2011, however, all cell phone communication was cut on San Francisco’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). This was done to disrupt a protest against a violent police officer who killed a homeless man. That same year, the White House claimed that the government had the right to

“control private communications systems in the United States during times of war or other national emergencies.”

In an effort to learn more about the justification for the BART shut down, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a FOIA request with DHS in July of 2012. DHS claimed it could not find any relevant documentation, leading EPIC to file a FOIA lawsuit. A lower federal court found the agency insufficiently complied with the request. By February of 2015, however, a higher court sided with a DHS appeal and ruled that

“the [DHS] permissibly withheld much, if not all of SOP 303, because its release…could reasonably be expected to endanger individuals’ lives or physical safety . . . .”

In spite of the federal government’s aggressive attempts to keep this information secret, EPIC filed a request last month for the court to revisit its decision, arguing that “if left in place, [it] would create an untethered ‘national security’ exemption.” This time, the court gave the government until this Monday, April 27, to explain the details of its policy, including under what conditions it may be implemented.

Alan Butler, a lawyer for EPIC, explained plainly that,

“We’re not asking for detailed information about how [SOP 303] works … but about the rationale and the policy guidelines.”

The push toward a “kill switch” has been building for years (and predates cell phones and the Internet). In July of 2012, Obama signed an Executive Order that “granted the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.” In 2010, a Senate Subcommittee on “Homeland Security” approved a kill-switch for the Internet and in 2014, the House of Representatives introduced a cell phone kill switch bill in the name of preventing smartphone theft. In August of that same year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring all smart phones made after July 2015 to have a built in kill switch. The bill has been criticized for granting dangerous power to both law enforcement and hackers.

The use of a kill switch has also been lambasted for what some view as an inability to prevent terrorist attacks. In fact, previous terror attacks have relied not on cellular communication, but merely on an alarm clock built into a phone—which would be unaffected by the use of a kill switch.

The dangers of granting such broad authority to government seem not only abundant, but obvious. As seen in the 2011 BART instance, the state is more than willing to dismantle communication for reasons beyond national security. The power to disrupt the citizens’ right to organize protests against state action is an unconscionable effort to control the population and silence dissent. That the government is so resistant to explain this power is reason enough to distrust it.

As Howard Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge, a public advocacy group, pointed out,

“Understanding a policy should not compromise national security.”

The DHS stubbornly disagreed. Asked to explain the decision to withhold basic procedural information from the public on the program, it responded only with,

“We have no comment on this.”

Although the court-mandated deadline has come and gone — as of midnight yesterday — without a response from the government, this story will be updated when and if they ever decide to offer an explanation for the shrouded policy.

This article (Federal Government Ordered to Explain Why it Needs a Cell Phone Kill Switch) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TheAntiMedia.org. Tune in! The Anti-Media radio show airs Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Help us fix our typos: edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. Her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised.

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  1. Deceit and lies is how they wage war, nothing new

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  2. The revolution will not be televised. Unfortunately it will also not be textd twweted or facebooked

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  3. My grand father said to me, that there is a good reason, and a real reason for everything. Go Figure!

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  4. The first clue is that they brought in this BS law based on the London false flag. Now let's see…what else could that be useful for? Possibly cutting off communications and therefor any meaningful resistance when they implement martial law. Remember folks Christian's, right wing groups, and people who pay in cash along with returning Vets are who they have labeled domestic "terrorists" now. Wake up people, THIS IS TYRANNY!!!

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  5. Lets also have the Court ask Homeland Security who is responsible for transporting illegals ( Felons ) all over the Country & across State lines which is in FACT Aiding & abetting a Felon, which is ofcourse a FELONY. Is someone directly responsible in Homeland Security ? or did the order come from President Obama ? If the order came from the President the official charge changes from Aiding & Abetting to TREASON. !

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  6. The coupling of Nazi socialism with Muslim Jihadi as Hitler's campaign for European domination and used by the storm troopers of the Gestapo and the systematic destruction of the Christian and Jewish populations of Europe. This same scenario is being formulated by the DHS and factions of anti American anti Christian bureaucrats to destroy Christian domination and the freedoms outlined by Constitution of the United States. Socialist slavery has culminated into riotous behavior by those dominated by its fury and degradation.

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  7. I don't think I care anymore. Nobody else that I know cares… I'm just a conspiracy nut in their view.

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  8. They need the kill switch so they can cut off communication between citizens when the SHTF. That way we can't call for help, that's why we need face to face meetings as a group but then we would be on Obamas domestic terrorist list.

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  9. Leave our phones alone. We have a right to access information if our nation comes under attack. By foreigners or our own government.

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  10. This will come in very handy when obama declares martial law because hardly anyone uses a land line anymore, only cell phones. That will really cause chaos and panic.

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