Federal Courts Afraid Your Smartphone Might Be A Bomb

from the well-there-goes-that-idea dept

While a state court in Connecticut may be fine with you tweeting from the courtroom via your phone, you might not be allowed to bring your smartphone into federal courtrooms at all. Apparently the Administrative Office of the Courts is arguing that smartphones should be banned completely from federal court houses, because they might hide bombs. Really? I mean, can't we at least have a TSA style grope and scan before we write off all smartphones? David Kravets, the author of the article linked above, highlights how different federal courthouses seem to take very different views on technology these days:
At the District of Columbia federal courthouse, which is home to the lower courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, I had to check my cellphone at the door two weeks ago. And in the Los Angeles federal courthouse, I was ordered, by a judge, to turn off the Wi-Fi signal emitted from my HTC Evo in December.

But in San Francisco, the judiciary allows Wi-Fi connected computing inside its courtrooms, from either a cellphone or a computer. Live blogging or tweeting is commonplace there.

That is the status quo with the ongoing Barry Bonds criminal trial in San Francisco. What’s more, the San Francisco federal courthouse even provides free Wi-Fi in many courtrooms.
It seems like that's going significantly overboard to claim that we should ban all smartphones just because some people might misuse them.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Christopher Gizzi (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Ban Pens

    Those judges and need to wake up and smell the ink drying on the paper. Pens are the real threat.

    Haven't they seen the James Bond movies?? Those pens ARE mightier than the sword. Three clicks and its all over - just like Goldeneye.

    Pens are so universal - EVERYONE has a pen - and you can't be to careful with them. Pencils are bad enough that they could actually be used as a sword. Smartphones and other "pager-like" technology are small potatoes compared to all the BICs and Montblancs out there.

    They already use chalk to draw people in court. There isn't a need for potentially deadly and terrorizing "writers" out there blowing up the courts.

    *** Disclaimer: Just in case it wasn't obvious, this is supposed to be sarcasm.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:36am

    I mean, can't we at least have a TSA style grope and scan

    Whoa, whoa whoa now. Dont give them any ideas.

     

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  3.  
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    Pixelation, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:40am

    Look out! Look out! He's got a smart phone strapped around his waist!

     

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  4.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Re:

    That's no smartphone, it's a tri-corder. Sheesh! No wonder we act like we're in the movies at airports!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    justok (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:49am

    Well

    I heard they're banning stand-up comedians because they might bomb

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Andy (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:50am

    Luddism or paranoia?

    I can't decide whether this appears to herald a new era of Luddism (and a pretty extreme form of it at that) or of heightened paranoia. Either way, if you want to fear the unknown like this, you will end up banning an incredibly long list of potential threats. Taken ad absurdum, there is really very little among the most mundane of objects which could not in some way be used to make mischief.

    "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" seems particularly apposite here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    Re: Luddism or paranoia?

    you think this is new luddism? This is *old* luddism.

    This is no different than courts freaking out about even daring to have a laptop in a courtroom years ago. I'm pretty sure they even used the exact same argument.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Rabbit80, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    Where the hell would you put a bomb?

    I've just replaced a screen on an HTC Desire - where on earth you could fit a bomb in a typical smartphone I don't know - there isn't exactly a lot of room in them!

    I suppose you could blow the battery up - but they tend to just give a big fireball and little explosive damage!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    jonakajon (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:04am

    Smartphones as bombs and other US behaviour

    I am not a US citizen but I have been following US news via Reddit, Techdirt and various other blogs, sites and news aggregators for a while now and my take on the US is this: Greed, Paranoia and Self interest. Oh, and stupidity but I will be generous and call it ignorance.

    Your President has no power due to debts owed. Your politicians are corrupt as are your corporations who are those corrupting. I mean, corporations as individuals. When will they be allowed to vote and how many votes will they get?

    Your Christian based religions have forfeited the right to be called Christians.

    Your military and political leadership is a laughing stock.

    The major military successes you have enjoyed in the last 60 years have been against small island countries and client states. Any country you have invaded which has a population armed with equivalent small arm's has either fought you to a stalemate eg. Iraq, Afghanistan or kicked your butt eg. Somalia

    I won't even mention Vietnam.

    You don't deal with terrorists. North Korea? How much fuel oil did you ship there after they detonated the bomb?

    And what about your vaunted Constitution. It is observed when convenient and ignored otherwise.

    Your Democracy? Your country is a Republic. It is not now and never was a Democracy. I say here and now that by 2030 your country will be a theocracy.

    I could go on about your forcing other countries to adopt your laws or how your corporations abuse the laws of the countries they operate in and so on but why bother. All I care about is that I don't live there and I am glad of that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    jonakajon (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:04am

    Smartphones as bombs and other US behaviour

    I am not a US citizen but I have been following US news via Reddit, Techdirt and various other blogs, sites and news aggregators for a while now and my take on the US is this: Greed, Paranoia and Self interest. Oh, and stupidity but I will be generous and call it ignorance.

    Your President has no power due to debts owed. Your politicians are corrupt as are your corporations who are those corrupting. I mean, corporations as individuals. When will they be allowed to vote and how many votes will they get?

    Your Christian based religions have forfeited the right to be called Christians.

    Your military and political leadership is a laughing stock.

    The major military successes you have enjoyed in the last 60 years have been against small island countries and client states. Any country you have invaded which has a population armed with equivalent small arm's has either fought you to a stalemate eg. Iraq, Afghanistan or kicked your butt eg. Somalia

    I won't even mention Vietnam.

    You don't deal with terrorists. North Korea? How much fuel oil did you ship there after they detonated the bomb?

    And what about your vaunted Constitution. It is observed when convenient and ignored otherwise.

    Your Democracy? Your country is a Republic. It is not now and never was a Democracy. I say here and now that by 2030 your country will be a theocracy.

    I could go on about your forcing other countries to adopt your laws or how your corporations abuse the laws of the countries they operate in and so on but why bother. All I care about is that I don't live there and I am glad of that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Michael, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:21am

    I still don't get it

    If you are going to bomb a courthouse (or an airport, for that matter) the best place to do it is at the security check where they have made such a bottleneck that everyone is standing in a big group.

    Does anyone know if the politicians have to go through security or check their phones at a courthouse, or is it like the TSA - they get a pass?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    someone (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Forget the phones, ban the lawyers!

    A rectum can hide a bomb too, so when are they planning to ban lawyers from the court room?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:32am

    Personally, I would only worry about a phone if it had a handle and pull pin.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Overcast (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    Heck, no need for 'terrorists' with our government involved. Their 'security' will create more 'terrorism' than a class room full of suicide bombers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    someone (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    "Personally, I would only worry about a phone if it had a handle and pull pin."

    OMG! his phone has a stylus, take cover!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Tom The Toe, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:45am

    Re:Luddism or paranoia?

    "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" and of course the boogie man.
    Pat Paulsen

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Greevar (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 7:57am

    Re: Luddism or paranoia?

    Haven't you heard? Fear is profitable!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Greevar (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:05am

    Re: Smartphones as bombs and other US behaviour

    To be fair, the US doesn't hold a monopoly on greed, paranoia, and self interest. We do have it in abundance, however. The US military doesn't deal in wars they can win, only wars that are profitable for Haliburton, Homeland Security and the DEA. To say our government is corrupt and hypocritical is an understatement. Ignorance and theologically-fueled hate is the flavor of the day in our great nation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Greevar (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:06am

    Re: Forget the phones, ban the lawyers!

    I see what you did there!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    jonakajon (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    smartphones and bombs...

    http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/no_abortion_audits/index2.html

    America...

    It's hard to imagine how the outrageous attempt by anti-choice lawmakers to redefine rape as a way to block access to safe and legal abortions could get any worse. But this week we found out just how far the most recent radical assault on women could go.

    Recent testimony to a House taxation subcommittee confirmed the same bill that seeks to redefine rape (the "Stop Taxpayer Funded Abortions Act" or H.R. 3), would force the IRS to audit how women paid for an abortion.

    And in some cases, the bill would force women who were sexually assaulted into the hellish scenario of proving to IRS agents that they were victims of "forcible rape" or incest.

    Tell Congress: Say no to IRS abortion audits!

    A tax expert quoted by Mother Jones magazine explains that under the tax provisions of H.R. 3, anyone who receives a tax deduction or credit for health care costs that include abortion care could face an audit to determine whether that care was related to a case of rape or incest. And the burden of proof during that audit would fall on the taxpayer.

    Land of the rapist...home of the criminal

    Please tell me this is a joke

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    jonakajon (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Smartphones as bombs and other US behaviour

    True. You don't hold a monoply

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:28am

    State Circuit courts in Michigan ban all phones as well. Just did jury duty recently, and they mentioned that they're banned in the whole building. Never gave a reason why, though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Daph, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    Re: Where the hell would you put a bomb?

    Having examined the slim innards of my Droid when I accidentally flung it to the floor recently (damn autocorrect! but good phone, still works), you make an excellent point. Those walkie-talkies that police and courthouse staff use look to be far roomier.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Suitcases?

    Wouldn't it be more logical to ban suitcases and similar stuff instead? I mean, if the assumption is that everyone is a potential bomber?

    Not that anyone has ever thought about placing a bomb in a bag or anything...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Duke (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Whereas in the UK...

    I was in the High Court in London this week (watching the Judicial Review of the Digital Economy Act), and while there were signs up saying that 'phones should be turned off, several people had their 'phones out and there was a fairly good twitter-stream for the hearing. Some of the lawyers had laptops, I had my Kindle out, and there was no question that we'd be trying to blow something up.

    This was at the Royal Courts of Justice, which houses the English High Court and Courts of Appeal, and while it has ... what would have been called airport-style security a few years ago, but now... merely x-ray machines for belongings, and a standard walk-through metal detector at the entrances, security is fairly lax; possibly because the judiciary realise that blowing them up would be kind of pointless; they're not particularly high-profile.

    Incidentally, I was also wandering around our Parliament buildings last week, and they had the same level of security (plus "ID" tags, which merely show that you've been through security and are a guest, rather than identifying you personally), and that's a building that *has* been the subject of a terrorist attack, admittedly some time ago (although I imagine the IRA probably tried more recently).

    It seems rather ridiculous to the extreme to put in place all these extra layers of security theatre in US (or other) courts (such as banning phones), and one can't help but wonder if the reasoning behind it is something along the lines of "airports have tighter security than courts, this can't be right, we must have more security", rather than actually being worried about concrete threats.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    pringerX (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 8:54am

    Re: smartphones and bombs...

    Where do you live? I won't say the US is innocent of those transgressions, but if you compare it with the rest of the world, it really ain't so bad. The main reason the US gets a worse rap is because of our freedoms- people are free to report what they want, assholes are free to be assholes, and people naturally gravitate toward the negative (at least, that's what sells). I don't believe the doomsayers that claim America is headed for total collapse. Things may change, perhaps even drastically, but in all likelihood the US will keep soldiering on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:05am

    Re: Re: smartphones and bombs...

    No, it really is that bad. It's getting to the point where I wouldn't be surprised to see a bill that placed all women under 'house arrest' for 'their own safety from the terrorists'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:11am

    Re: Smartphones as bombs and other US behaviour

    Greed, Paranoia and Self interest. Oh, and stupidity but I will be generous and call it ignorance.

    Yeah, none of these things exist in other countries...just the USA. Idiot!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:18am

    You know you are in trouble when even the Texan government sues you for bad business practices.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Greevar (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Smartphones as bombs and other US behaviour

    We do hand them out to anyone with an idea they want to control though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Adam, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re: Ban Pens

    Snarky sarcasm aside. It's much easier to stab someone in the jugular with a pen or pencil then it is to bludgeon them to death with a cell phone. Who knows, maybe I can just make a call and point my phone at them and they might get radiation poisoning and die! Wait that takes a while doesn't it....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    peter, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:26am

    To be fair

    The ban is more due to prevent the use of smartphones to be the trigger for the explosive.

    I have done a thought experiment to see how many different methods a smartphone could be configured as a trigger, and the list is long. For example

    1. Using GPS, phone triggers when it gets to a specific location
    2. Using the phone, it triggers when it recieves a call
    3. Using internal giros/electronic compass phone triggers when phone is moved.

    List goes on and on. Using Android, you could even build an app to choose a trigger or combination of triggers

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Joe (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 9:34am

    Re: Forget the phones, ban the lawyers!

    I once pirated a rectum so bad, a lawyer had to get a real job?

    Maybe I'm in the wrong article...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Planespotter (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    Re: I still don't get it

    Exactly... which is why the best place to detonate a bomb isn't on the airplane.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Planespotter (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:04am

    Until people are forced to go about their business naked and have cavity searches every 30 minutes we will never win the war on terror!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Kevin (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 10:43am

    I was at Home Depot the other day buying a hammer and as soon as I walked out the front door an ATF agent confiscated it due to the potential for it to make loud BANGING sounds.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    J, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    Exploding cell phones

    Well, if Charlie Demerjian's 2004 article tilted, "The INQUIRER Guide to Exploding Batteries" is any indication, I'm surprised they haven't been banned sooner. Of course, this also means they have to ban things like police radios as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Rabbit80, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    Re: To be fair

    Considering that we have already established that there is not enough room to turn a smartphone into a bomb..

    1) Why on earth would you trigger a bomb from within a courtroom?
    2) What do your points have to do with a courtroom at all?
    3) Are you suggesting that terrorists are going to leave a phone-trigger lying around in a courtroom?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Daph, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: To be fair

    But how they gonna order in pizza, then? Poor juries, scavenging for the last package of Cheese on Wheat crackers from the vending machines...

    I have no idea, but could the same triggery devices be implemented in wristwatches?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

    This is already the case...

    ...in Oklahoma, where you must leave your cell with the elderly security guards and are required to have a government-issued photo ID to enter the court house. I once asked what the point of that was, while in downtown OKC to visit my mom (who's a court clerk) and he mumbled something about the Murrah Building. Which was, if you recall, blown up by a bomb placed in a vehicle outside.

    Which is still absolutely possible today.

    /securitytheatre

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Re: I still don't get it

    No, because there generally isn't a bottleneck in federal courthouses. It's not exactly an airport, bud.

    The best way, as demonstrated by the Oklahoma bombing, is to drive a vehicle in front of the building and leave it there. Much less riskier than actually walking into the building.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: smartphones and bombs...

    I agree with eejit. I am a gay, minority, unmarried, uneducated mother and I am telling you that it absolutely is that bad in this country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    jurassic, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

    They've tried bombs in shoes and underwear. Better ban those as well

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re: smartphones and bombs...

    "but if you compare it with the rest of the world, it really ain't so bad"

    Then stop comparing it to the rest of the world so that you can see how bad it really is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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