House Bill to Require I.D. for Pre-Paid Phone Purchases

Burner phones are great tools for maintaining anonymous communication, even for terrorists.  And that’s why House bill HR 4886 has been proposed in Congress, which aims to require identification for the purchase of pre-paid phones.

[wcm_nonmember] In this Dispatch…

  • How burner phones allow anonymous communications
  • What House bill HR 4886 requires
  • Will HR 4886 pass the Congress?

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For those unfamiliar, burner phones currently aren’t registered to any user, can be purchased in bulk and with cash, and with a few caveats can provide anonymity when calling or texting.   The phone itself is really inconsequential.  What really matters is the SIM card housed inside the phone, which stores critical data like a phone number and allows the phone to make calls.  A user could have ten different SIM cards but use them in the same telephone, if he or she so desired.  While burner phones are still geo-located just like any other cell phone — giving the real-time location of any cell phone connected to a cell tower — callers can still remain anonymous as long as they follow a few simple rules.

Consider that the NSA collects cell phone locations five billion times each day, and they’re not only able to retrieve call history but also historical geographical data.  But what they really want to know is the identity of the callers, which is why we’re seeing HR 4886 (HR 4886) enter the House.  If passed into law, the bill will require the full name, full home address and date of birth of the purchaser.  In addition, it will require not just a government-issued I.D. card, but also two additional forms of government-approved forms of identification.

[Analyst Comment:  The bill also creates requirements for authorized sellers to make records of all sales and then transmit those records within 30 days of purchase.  It should come as no surprise that the bill, in its current form, requires too much from retailers and consumers for the bill to pass as is.  The bill also has no co-sponsors, and is currently sitting in two committees.  Fred Upton (R-MI) chairs the Energy & Commerce Committee, and has a 64% rating from the Republican Liberty Caucus.  Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is the chairman of the House Judiciary committee and has a 100% rating from the Republican Liberty Caucus.  I don’t believe this bill, as is, will make it out of committee and ultimately, I don’t see this bill becoming law in this Congress.]

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Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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