UK's Home Secretary Says Terrorists Will Be The Real Winners If Country's Cell Coverage Dead Zones Are Fixed
from the 4G-means-four-times-the-terrorism dept
But Home Secretary Theresa May would rather UK citizens suffer through a plethora of dead zones (or "not spots" -- the term of choice for these no-service areas) than put her country in harm's way. According to an internal letter written by May, providing near-seamless coverage for UK phone users will open the door for increased terrorist activity.
[M]ay argues in the leaked internal Whitehall letter that Javid’s plans to end “not-spots”, by allowing customers to roam between rival networks, could aid criminals and terrorists. The Times reported that May’s objections centre around concerns that roaming would make it more difficult for the agencies to track suspects.This is, of course, ridiculous. In the US, cell phone subscribers hop from tower to tower freely, and yet, law enforcement and national security agencies have plenty of options to track suspects and terrorists. It's hard to believe the GCHQ and UK's law enforcement agencies don't have access to the same methods and technology.
For one, IMSI catchers (Stingray devices) are able to spoof any service provider's tower and, if need be, force every phone in its effective range down to a 2G connection for easier surveillance. So, it ultimately doesn't matter whether these "not spots" exist or have been papered over by legislation or cooperative agreements between service providers.
On top of that, these agencies have access to "tower dumps," often without anything more powerful than a subpoena. This gives agencies a record of every connection made to these towers, whether it was a phone call or simply a ping for a viable signal.
Given what we've learned over the past year, UK's intelligence and law enforcement agencies likely have access to plenty of this information already. Even if they don't, they certainly have the power to compel it. In addition, the GCHQ has the invaluable assistance of the NSA -- an agency that isn't weighed down by the nominal privacy protections granted to UK citizens.
It would seem that the nation's security -- at least under the current "Five Eyes" regime -- would be more threatened by dead zones in coverage than vice versa. Going off the grid would seemingly be more conducive to bad behavior than flouncing about from carrier to carrier, spilling your secrets to at least two powerful intelligence agencies.
But even worse than Theresa May's display of ignorance and fear is her suggestion that the public's connectivity be sacrificed on the altar of national security. David Mitchell -- of That Mitchell and Webb Look -- says it best:
Theresa May is the first person, as far as I know, to suggest that people’s activities should be restricted in order actually to facilitate the security services’ surveillance – to claim not only that it’s permissible for the police to snoop on everything we do and say, but also that we should be discouraged or prevented from doing things the police might have trouble keeping track of.Mitchell's response is exactly what May's little written panic attack deserves. Politicians who filter everything through the terrorism lens tend to develop outsized blind spots. May would rather have UK citizens deal with lousy coverage (and being one step behind their EU counterparts) than perhaps have a terrorist jump towers and ditch pursuing GCHQ agents. Ridiculous.
“Come off it!” some of you may be thinking. “She can’t be the first!” And of course you’re right – I’m exaggerating. She’s certainly not the first person ever – throughout history her point has frequently been made. In fact, the states of the former communist bloc were entirely predicated on this principle, as were most fascist regimes. It’s one of the issues over which Lenin and Tsar Nicholas II would probably find common ground if they got stuck with each other at an awkward drinks party in hell.