Do you know what that cell phone could do in the wrong hands?

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Federal law enforcement is concerned about allowing cell phone use in flight because (I'm not making this up) terrorists might use it to coordinate. Let's take this point by point.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Allowing airline passengers to use personal cell phones during flights could help potential hijackers coordinate an attack or trigger a bomb smuggled on board, U.S. security officials have told regulators.

The U.S. Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation late on Thursday outlined the potential dangers associated with allowing cell phone use during plane flights, as the Federal Communications Commission has proposed if safety issues can be resolved.

Yes, terrorists could use cell phones to communicate with the ground. But they could do that right now because people already use cell phones on planes. This only gets detected when the flight attendants actually hear you talking on the phone, but you can avoid that by using the phone in the lavatory or using SMS instead of voice. The bomb argument is even sillier because bombs can certainly be set off by SMS or even simple radio detonators. Even if you had some sort of cellular call detector in place--which as far as I know, planes do not--by the time you find out who's making the call, you've already been blown to pieces.

If wireless phones are to be allowed in-flight, the law enforcement agencies urged that users be required to register their location on a plane before placing a call and that officials have fast access to call identification data.

Uh, this would be half the people on the plane, right?

Security theater at work again...

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I'm not so sure you understand the threat. The fear is that they can communicate with each other on the plane and coordinate an attack on the flight crew from multiple points in the cabin simultaneously.

Well, that was one of the things mentioned. But how is this not something that could be done just as well with IM or SMS? Remember that in the very near future WiFi on planes will be very common.

I'm sure all the stinking points have not been worked out and there will be ways of getting around it, but that doesn't mean the government shouldn't attempt to stop this sort of thing.

Yeah, the smart criminals will find there way around it. But any law enforcement agent will tell you that most criminals are not smart.

Regarding flying WiFi, one of the things Boeings Connexion service has to guard against is computer to computer communication... for exactly this reason.

Actually, it *does* mean that the government shouldn't try to stop this thing. Badly defined plans that inconvenience a lot of people and have murky cost-benefit propositions are exactly the kinds of things the government shouldn't try to do.

Re: WiFi, how exactly is Boeing going to stop computer to computer communications, considering that (1) the transmissions are broadcast and (2) they can always communicate through some ground-based intermediary a la Jabber?

It feels really weird, but I'm pretty much in complete agreement with Eric here. "Coordinate an attack on the flight crew from multiple points in the cabin simultaneously"? Does that mean they have to confiscate everybody's wristwatch, as well?

i am an idiot and i am lead by richard simmons

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