[Tony Dokoupil reports on the little-known rules the government can use to shut down phone networks.]
According to the Daily Beast on Wednesday, Chicago law enforcement officials could shut down cell phone networks as part of their "security" operation in Chicago during the NATO summit.
Reporter Tony Dokoupil writes "Much of the cat-and-mouse game will be technological, with people in the streets wielding smartphones to coordinate actions and publicize what's happening, while law enforcement mulls whether to take the power of those phones away—disrupting service in the name of public safety."
While the tactic is usually associated with digital dictators abroad—and the Obama administration has sharply criticized such interruptions, even proposing sanctions against countries that curb their peoples' wireless freedom—shutdowns are a creeping American phenomenon as well.
Often a perfectly legal one.
Not only do the FBI and Secret Service have standing authority to jam signals, but they along with state and local authorities can also push for the shutdown of cell towers, thanks to a little-known legacy of the Bush administration: "Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 303," which lays out the nation's official "Emergency Wireless Protocols."
“It’s the nature of law enforcement to push the envelope… It’s act first and litigate second.”
We've certainly seen this "act first" move in play more often than not during Occupy Wall Street protests alone. Dokoupil also writes that "Rumors of cellphone jamming also swirled around the Occupy protests in New York earlier this month; five people told The Daily Beast that they struggled to send photos, tweets, and basic text messages." It wouldn't be shocking, if the rumors are true, after all we've witnessed at the NYC protests and rallies. Cell phone jamming as a possibility during the NATO summit shouldn't really be a question at this point. Expect it.