ABCNews is reporting that federal agents are investigating a surge in the purchasing of disposable cell phones by individuals from the Middle East and Pakistan:
The phones — which do not require purchasers to sign a contract or have a credit card — have many legitimate uses, and are popular with people who have bad credit or for use as emergency phones tucked away in glove compartments or tackle boxes. But since they can be difficult or impossible to track, law enforcement officials say the phones are widely used by criminal gangs and terrorists.
“There’s very little audit trail assigned to this phone. One can walk in, purchase it in cash, you don’t have to put down a credit card, buy any amount of minutes to it, and you don’t, frankly, know who bought this,” said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI official who is now an ABC News consultant.
Law enforcement officials say the phones were used to detonate the bombs terrorists used in the Madrid train attacks in March 2004.
“The application of prepaid phones for nefarious reasons, is really widespread. For example, the terrorists in Madrid used prepaid phones to detonate the bombs in the subway trains that killed more than 200 people,” said Roger Entner, a communications consultant.
150 Phones in One Sale, 60 Phones in Another
The FBI is closely monitoring the potentially dangerous development, which came to light following recent large-quantity purchases in California and Texas, officials confirmed.
In one New Year’s Eve transaction at a Target store in Hemet, Calif., 150 disposable tracfones were purchased. Suspicious store employees notified police, who called in the FBI, law enforcement sources said.
In an earlier incident, at a Wal-mart store in Midland, Texas, on December 18, six individuals attempted to buy about 60 of the phones until store clerks became suspicious and notified the police. A Wal-mart spokesperson confirmed the incident.
The Midland, Texas, police report dated December 18 and obtained by ABC News states: “Information obtained by MPD [Midland Police Department] dispatch personnel indicated that approximately six individuals of Middle-Eastern origin were attempting to purchase an unusually large quantity of tracfones (disposable cell phones with prepaid minutes attached).” At least one of the suspects was identified as being from Iraq and another from Pakistan, officials said.
“Upon the arrival of officers, suspects were observed moving away from the registers — appearing to evade detection while ridding themselves of the merchandise.”
Other reports have come in from other cities, including Dallas, and from authorities in other states. Authorities in Pennsylvania, New York and other parts of Texas confirmed that they were alerted to the cases, and sources say other jurisdictions were also notified.
The Midland, Texas, arrest report police also identified the individuals as linked to a terror cell:
“Evasive responses provided by the subjects, coupled with actions observed by officers at the onset of the contact prompted the notification of local FBI officials to assist in the investigation,” the report said. “Upon the arrival of special agents, and as a result of subsequent interviews, it was discovered that members of the group were linked to suspected terrorist cells stationed within the Metroplex.
When did the story on the NSA eavesdropping break? Dec. 16. I hope the “whistleblowers“ and those who once upon a time claimed to be so concerned about how leaks could damage our national security suffer some sleepless nights and restless days over this. A lot of them.
(Cross-posted at California Conservative)
We need to raise the roof on this one.
- Whistleblower or leaker?
- Joe Klein: How to Stay Out of Power (and undermine the war in the process)
- Why it was important to keep the cat in the bag
- The Rep. Jane Harman flip flop
- NSA initially acted on its own after 9-11
- Investigations begin into the NSA eavesdropping leak
- “â€¦ the only thing outrageous about this policy is the outrage itself”
- Michael Barone on the MSM’s â€˜eavesdropping’ coverage
- Brief history of warrantless searches
- Past presidents and the NSA
- Bill Clinton and the NSA
- WSJ: “Thank you for wiretapping”
- The Prez fires back
- Prez essentially says â€˜let me do my job’
- The undermining of this war