Judge Sees Through Federal Face-Saving Attempt, Tosses Out Phone Unlocking Charges

from the justice dept

You might remember the case of three Palestinan-American men that were arrested last month in Michigan: they had about 1,000 prepaid cellphones, leading some authorities to believe they were somehow connected to terrorism. When that didn’t pan out, the men were hit with bogus fraud charges that claimed their intent to unlock and resell the phones was illegal. It wasn’t clear exactly how their actions broke the law, and a federal magistrate has now tossed out the charges for a lack of evidence. The dismissal sort of punts on the issue of the illegality of unlocking cell phones to work on any provider, but as Wired notes, other cases involving the DMCA and arguments about circumventing copy protection on garage door openers and printer cartridges that might have some relevance haven’t been successful. The dismissal does little to dispel the belief that the fraud charges were anything more than a weak attempt to save some face after the reality of the situation didn’t meet the initial hype it generated.

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Comments on “Judge Sees Through Federal Face-Saving Attempt, Tosses Out Phone Unlocking Charges”

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Chuck (user link) says:

Just Boy Scouts

Just innocent little boy scouts, these fellas. Why did they drive all over the country? Why not buy phones wholesale? Because no legitimate wholesale company would sell phones if the customer did not have a FEDERAL TAX ID NUMBER.

Did they pay taxes on all the cash that they were holding, or were the just taking cash money out of the till at Uncle Abdul’s gas station. That is known as money laundering – a felony. When it is done to support terrorism, it is a big deal.

20 of 20 of the 9/11 terrorists were young Arab males. Too damm bad if they were hassled. It’s a new era, get used to it. They can always LEAVE if they don’t like it. If they are just working their way up the ladder like other people who have come to this country, they can pay their fair share of taxes, and not live like rats in the dark holes of Dearborn.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just Boy Scouts

“Did they pay taxes on all the cash that they were holding, or were the just taking cash money out of the till at Uncle Abdul’s gas station. That is known as money laundering – a felony. When it is done to support terrorism, it is a big deal.”

Except that the judge ealier dismissed the money laundering charges…

Call me naive, but I’d like to believe he didn’t just do that out of hand. So go ahead and believe that just because they’re related to people in the middle east they’re terrorist. That’s a nice and enlightened way to live.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Just Boy Scouts

“Call me naive, but I’d like to believe he didn’t just do that out of hand. So go ahead and believe that just because they’re related to people in the middle east they’re terrorist. That’s a nice and enlightened way to live.”

(middle east is Middle East. I am a moron but I know where the Caps key is.)

You’re naive. Believe anything you want. What does “just do it out of hand” mean? Does it mean like on a whim? Do you think it went down like this…

“Hey Hassam? How about you and me and Wahleed go get some cash from Uncle Abdul and drive around the Midwest, paying retail prices for hundreds of phones that can also be wired to car bombs.?”

“Yes brother Majif, I will go with you to the infidels great box store and pay retail for a wholesale quantity of phones with cash, but only if we stop and pray five times a day facing mecca. There 72 virgins in it for me and I want to be sure each one it pretty enough for me.”

Do you personally know anyone at your trailer park who drives around in a car and buys large quantities of anything with cash? Think it over while standing in line for you WIC check.

Faz says:

Re: Just Boy Scouts

“They can always LEAVE if they don’t like it.”

wasn’t this country built on immigrants… one can potentially agree to profiling arabs closer in today’s world.. but asking american citizens, who may be arab decent to leave…


we might as well kick the japanese, the russian and the vietnamese americans out.. wait lets kick the cuban american while we are at it too…


chuck the imbicile says:

Re: Re: Just Boy Scouts

“japanese, the russian and the vietnamese americans out.. wait lets kick the cuban american”

You must have went to the same shitty liberal run public schools as my other detractors.

The Russians, the Vietnamee, and the Cubans never leveled a sneak attack on our country. The Japanese were put in internment camps until they could be sorted out. Who interned them? A Democratic president, FDR.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Just Boy Scouts

“Chuck is well beyond a stupid moron – Chuck is EXACTLY what is wrong with this country. Chuck needs to grow a brain along with all the other Chuck’s out there that think somehow this kind of racism is intelligent.”

Racism means that you think one race is better than another.

Predjudice means that you “Pre judge” someone.

I did not say the Arabs are an inferior race, they are the cradle of learning. Algerbra is an example. I did not pre-judge these men. They took actions that put them in the judical system, they got a fair trial and were exhonorated. In their homeland they would have not had a trial, they would have been fed to a wood chipper. Think that over America Bashers.

Bush did not make them buy phones with cash. The did not buy toasters or tires, they bought large quantities of untraceable devices responsible for 2/3rds of U.S. military deaths and injuries in Iraq.

So who is prejudiced?

Clifford VanMeter (user link) says:

American Cowards

This is just another example of how the government and specifically this administration has been systematically turning the American people into profligate cowards. Keep ’em scared and you’ll keep ’em voting for us, that’s been the motto of this bunch of arrogant assholes all along. Can’t find anything real to make’em scared of, make something up. Can’t support real charges – round up some Arabs and trump up a few charges.

From my essay – The American Culture of Cowardice:


Like helpless sheep, we beg the mighty for protection from the coming dangers. “Certainly,” they say, “We’ll save you. Just sign here.” Don’t worry about the fine print, that’s not important. Don’t worry about the personal freedom you surrender with every little shudder down your spine. Just think of how safe you’ll be. You will be safe from people who don’t think like us, look like us, or share our adherence to a specific bronze-age mythology.

Anonymous Hero says:

Any "man" here...

I dare anyone reading this to prove to these readers, be they foriegn to the United states soil or domestic upon it, beyond even a resonable doubt that Clifford Van Meter is wrong.

No one responding can convence me otherwise

I was convenced after the “then the terrorists win” campaigns on TV, and the News Papers. Blaming some shadowy “super villian” realm of people as if they all sit around a building labled “national terrisim department of the world” and think of ways to scare us for kicks. The only people sitting around in dark rooms thinking up ways to terrify the living tax dollars out of people is the crusty 150 year old geezers who’ve been trained by there fathers to keep as much as they can so that no one else has enough to fight back with.

terrist “causes” 9 times out of 10 die with the person committing the acts. The only reason places like isreal and the middle east have a large majority of people willing to die to be heard is because there governments have been scaring them into submission for thousands of years. Give us time and I’m sure you’ll see some frustrated americans on roof tops killing to be heard… Oh wait thats already happening…

seriously pissed off says:

Chuck you ignorant slut

If I had to hazzard a guess, you would be about 35-45, white, male, a very short temper and Irish (or Italian what the hay).

When you catagorize people by the shade of their skin you lose a fundamental logic which is “everyone is not part of their stereotype”. Just because they are related to the middle east descendants of this world doesn’t mean their religious nuts. Hell, they might not even be with the Islamic religion, much less the infintessimally small fraction that plan bad things. Y

Your ignorance is exactly what fuels the terrorists and permanently scars this nation.

With your comparison of “Abdul’s little gas station” (which is abhorent you small pricked dickhead) you essentialls give people liscense to liken ALL WHITES to members of the ARYAN NATIONS regardless of their real religion. Stereotyping is plain ignorant. Not even Israel stereotypes, they profile! Until you learn the difference please keep your mouth shut so Americans don’t look as bad as their current government.

How ’bout a nice big cup of SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Yet another Anonymous Coward says:

We used to almost have a real enemy

during the Cold War – and it was big business. And, I remember the stock running up for a quiet little company called Domestic Munitions during the Vietnam war.

These guys were probably going to resell these phones at a flea market in the boondocks somewere – where no one has a business license or tax number.

But, Bush needs some visible victories, and these guys were handy. It’s just like getting caught on an major highway in the US that is designated a major drug route and convicted of DWH – driving while Hispanic. In Louisianna, you automatically lose possesion of your car on just suspicion. I don’t know how many cars I’ve seen being stripped here in Oklahoma.

Now we have a new excuse for prejudice – if you look Arabian, you are a possible terrorist. If you look Hispanic, you are a possible drug transporter.

I loved the line in the movie Crash, where the lady said that they were Persian – why did they think they were Arabian?

Too many people in this world cannot function w/o an enemy. “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Chuck the Imbicile says:

The Boy Scouts

What is wrong with this country is it is being invaded by people who don’t want to speak English and do not want to pay taxes. This is in sharp contrast to previous generations who came to this country and wanted to be Americans, not a hyphenated sub group just living here to turn a buck while refusing to assimilate.

I am labeled a moron, imbicile and bigot, because I notice that 20 young Arab men hijacked 4 aircraft and killed more people than died at Pearl Harbor. Please tell me where the innocent, unfairly maligned Arab community is in outing the radical element in their midst?

No, the cell phone Arabs of which I speak were not from Texas, they were from Detroit unless you are thinking of the other Arab men that were caught doing exactly the same thing, driving around in a car buying up large quantities of untraceable phones, devices used to trigger a remote bombs, and using a untraceable payment method.

I can assure you that if I went to Iowa farm country and tried to by a 1000 lbs. of nitrate fertilizer and paid cash, I wouldn’t make it out of the county before somebody stopped me and asked what I needed it for, regardless of my skin color. It’s the Arabs actions that got these guys arrested, not anything else.

Do any of you name callers have an explanation or just more names and pablum? I’d like to hear any of you geniuses come up with an explanation why any legitimate business venture drives around to multiple retail locations and pays in cash for products. Why cash? Credit card expenditures are easier to keep track of. Why not go to a wholesale location? We are talking about hundreds of phones. Try attacking the argument for a change. Your personal attacks demonstrate that you have nothing to say.

Tek'a says:


“they bought large quantities of untraceable devices responsible for 2/3rds of U.S. military deaths and injuries in Iraq.”

is that a fact? first time I started hearing about cellphones being used for such evil every minute of every day!.. was when this whole suspicion of people buying phones started. the 24hour news channels Loved trotting out big scary statements like that.

any US Military commander stating for the record that this is the case? any “We have recovered many of these devices, all based entirly around prepayed cellphones bought at walmart”? or “I can state with a great deal of certainty that cellphones are the cause of 2/3rds of all the lost lives in this glorious battle for freedom”

think. then speak.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: really?

I am sorry, I did not state the facts correctly – U.S. Military said that MOST of the death and injury of US forces were a result of cell phone triggered bombs and that could mean from 51% to 99%. The reduction in IED deaths in recent months is a result of the military using jamming devices for the frequencies used by these phones.

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