THE EDITOR: I am very disappointed with the response by PNM Public Relations Officer, Senator Faris Al-Rawi to the announcement by the Prime Minister that cellphone “jammers” will be installed in our nation’s prison.
Senator Al-Rawi stated, “We are amazed the Head of the National Security Council could be foolish enough to announce to the criminal element the exact method in which law enforcement agencies will intercept valuable and critical evidence capable of being garnered and used in prosecution and convictions under various pieces of legislation, including the Anti-Gang Act.”
I would like to make a distinction between Cell Jamming and an alternative technology called Call Capturing. In the United States, cell jamming is illegal and also very ineffective as it is hard to jam phones throughout an entire prison without extending the effects outside the prison walls. The obvious disadvantages of such a system are it will render the phones of prison staff ineffective as well as calls made to emergency responders in close proximity to the prisons.
Call Capturing, however, does not jam signals but acts as a cellular base station, which picks up calls passing through all emergency response calls such as 999 or 990 and authorised calls from approved numbers, while rejecting unauthorised calls from unapproved numbers. Given that the Prime Minister spoke about approved and unapproved numbers in her address, I believe that the technology being considered is call capturing and not cell jamming as jammers do not have this specific ability that the Prime Minister referred to.
In addition, I find Senator Al-Rawi’s statements illogical as if he had done his research he would have learnt cell jammers do not monitor or record calls but eliminate them altogether. As a result, the argument over collecting evidence for prosecution cannot arise. In addition, any evidence collected would be inadmissible in court without special legislation being brought to Parliament to regulate usage and prevent abuse. But I am sure that an esteemed lawyer such as the Senator is aware of this.
Senator Al-Rawi’s statements lose even greater creditability when he responded to reporters on what the former administration did about the problem of illegal cellphone usage in the prison system. Senator Al-Rawi responded that the PNM engaged in minimal disclosure and preferred a platform to instill fear into criminals by keeping them in the dark and worried over the true capabilities of the national security network.
Given this, can Senator Al-Rawi comment on the successfulness of this policy? Obviously such a strategy did not work if the issue of cellphone smuggling and usage has remained a serious problem today.
Can Senator Al-Rawi also state why the previous administration did not implement such technology to help the situation?
Can Senator Al-Rawi explain why expensive phone tapping equipment was purchased to spy on ordinary law-abiding citizens but cell “jamming” technology to prevent hits from prison were not acquired?
I am positive that he can answer all of these questions. But I will not hold my breath. After all, it was the former administration’s policy to not comment on its national security network.
One has to wonder whether this policy was developed to instill fear in criminals or law-abiding citizens. Imagine while citizens were being spied on, criminals were allowed to call executions and kidnapping from prison. I wonder who is the foolish one now.