August 31, 2004
Terror fears loom over subway cell phone service
Despite mounting evidence from Spain to Pakistan that al-Qaeda is training its operatives to use cell phones to detonate bombs by remote control, cities around the world are taking steps to wire subway tunnels to receive mobile signals, reports the San Diego Union Tribune.
"A range of homeland security specialists and lawmakers acknowledge that wiring subway tunnels for cell service increases the risk that the system may be used against the public. But most also say that, on balance, the security benefits of extending the wireless communications network underground probably outweigh the cost of that increased risk.
"It's a conundrum," said P.J. Crowley, a former National Security Council official who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "In ensuring that we have the ability to communicate in a crisis, we're ensuring that our adversary can do the same thing. But the answer is to keep people who want to do us harm away from our borders, rather than eliminating a valued asset for people who day in, day out live within our borders."
The use of cell phone ringers to detonate bombs apparently goes back to the Irish Republican Army, but the technique has been enthusiastically embraced by Islamist terrorists. Recent bombings in Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Pakistan have used the technique, which gives a militant precise control over when the explosives will go off from a position of remote safety."
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