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Posted: 5/8/2002 7:49:21 PM EDT
[url]http://cbs2.com/topstories/StoryFolder/story_1361502693_html/index_html[/url] KCBS Helder's Cell Phone Led FBI To Him FBI Says Cell Phone Signal Like A Locator Beacon (SAN JOSE, Calif. ) (AP) May 8, 2002 9:34 pm Suspected mailbox bomber Luke Helder made a crucial mistake as he sought to avoid federal authorities: He turned on his cell phone. As soon as he activated it, FBI agents quickly triangulated his position between two rural towns and had him in handcuffs within an hour Tuesday, according to Nevada state authorities. The fact that another motorist spotted Helder in passing helped authorities, but the cell phone signal -- like a locator beacon -- was a dead giveaway. "We got a call from the FBI at approximately 3:20 p.m. that the cell phone that (Helder) had been known to have had been activated somewhere between Battle Mountain and Golconda," said Major Rick Bradley of the Nevada Highway Patrol. "We started hitting Interstate 80." The Nevada Highway Patrol flooded the area with officers and quickly had Helder in custody, Bradley said Wednesday. Bradley said tracking down Helder without the pinpoint location provided by the FBI would have made the task tougher, given the sprawling region. "It's really a rural area. There's not that much police presence," Bradley said. Helder also placed a call to his parents' Minnesota home, and spoke with an FBI agent they handed the phone to. But the technology trick used by the FBI helped seal Helder's fate. Special Agent Gayle Jacobs, of the FBI's Las Vegas office, refused to go into detail about how they pulled the cell phone locator feat, or even to acknowledge it was used. "There was an FBI agent on the phone with him at some point," Jacobs said. "My understanding is he was on a cell phone, that he had called his parents and an FBI agent was at his parents' house and they put him on the phone. "As far as investigative technique, we don't disclose that information," Jacobs said. She also would not say in what sequence the events unfolded in relation to the calls to Helder's home and the contact with Nevada authorities. One person familiar with cell phone triangulation is Michael Barker, an equipment sales manager for Cell-Loc, based in Calgary, Alberta. His company provides wireless tracking services in areas requiring emergency services for people incapacitated and unable to dial for help. "Every time the cell phone is on, it periodically sends a little registration message to the phone company, `Here I am! Here I am!"' Barker said. -- continued --
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 7:52:39 PM EDT
That message contains the cell phone's electronic serial number and tells the service provider when the phone has drifted in and out of cell tower range. Federal agents then easily can get in contact with the cell phone service company and get the location of the nearest cell tower providing a signal to the activated phone, Barker said. Law enforcement then can equip agents with devices designed to triangulate the signal and determine its location within 500 meters and the direction it was traveling in. "They could pick up the direction where the phone is from where they are," Barker said. Handheld equipment to conduct such a focused search is not sold to the general public, Barker added. Cell phone triangulation is a well-known tracking method within his industry, he said. Robin Gross, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, cautioned against growing acceptance of its use by federal agencies. "I think you should be worried about this type of technology, because it's very powerful and it could be abused," Gross said. She said cell phone tracking could be used to follow the movements of political dissenters or politicians and other people in power, leading to a slippery slope of government monitoring. "I think it's inappropriate to be tracking people under some kind of assumption that they might do something illegal," Gross said. "I just think it's ripe for abuse by law enforcement and by government." (© 2002 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 8:02:53 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/8/2002 8:03:14 PM EDT by Stealth]
""Every time the cell phone is on, it periodically sends a little registration message to the phone company, `Here I am! Here I am!"' Barker said. That message contains the cell phone's electronic serial number and tells the service provider when the phone has drifted in and out of cell tower range. Federal agents then easily can get in contact with the cell phone service company and get the location of the nearest cell tower providing a signal to the activated phone, Barker said." -------------------------------- Just thought I'd point this section out again. I should check the small print in my cell contract for the "oh btw, we are tracking you and by signing, you give your permission for us to relay that info to whichever agency requests it" clause.
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 8:06:12 PM EDT
Thats why I will never have one.
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 8:20:24 PM EDT
This has been used for a pretty long time...Was even used on OJ...I'm glad the idiot had his phone...Always know the enemy...I do agree that there should be something in the contract that states the phone could be used for that type of identification.
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 8:24:25 PM EDT
Well, they are obviously a no-no if you're on the lam. But this capability is a good thing if you're disabled and have no idea where you are. Of course, the FBI probably would not lend a hand to help rescue a stranded citizen, so you'd have to claim to be a white separatist or something. [rolleyes]
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 8:29:22 PM EDT
BTW just found this on the back of a Cingular contract: "Service is subject to the jurisdiction and regulations of the Federal Communications Commision and state regulatory agencies". Wonder if this is how they can check ya out???
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 8:35:14 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Philadelphia_GunMan: Thats why I will never have one.
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Good plan
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 8:48:23 PM EDT
I work in the wireless industry so just as some inside info: 1. They still need a bench warrant to get the location/call activity information. 2. From experience with this exact situation, it is difficult to pinpoint a subject's phone by registration alone. If you are in an active call, we can get it down to a 300 meter radius by doing free space loss calculations. 3. In the NEAR future, by FCC regulation, your phone registration/call origination messaging will include location information. (For 911 call information....yeah). Works good to track loved (and not so loved)ones. Not that I would or anything. That would be against company policy.
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 9:04:14 PM EDT
I heard that by 2005 cell phones will be required to have the ability to be tracked with a GPS unit.
Link Posted: 5/8/2002 9:12:38 PM EDT
The plans are to have a GPS in the phone which transmits the location to the phone company. Making a 911 call from a cell phone will immediately display your GPS location on the 911 console.
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