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NYPD explores cell phone jamming during terror attacks, hostage-takings

Editor’s Note: Police1 has collected the thoughts of several people in law enforcement with the purpose of kick-starting a dialog about how the events in Mumbai provide an opportunity to consider the nature of the threat we may one day face here in the U.S. We encourage you to read the opinions and analysis here and to participate in this discussion.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The NYPD is examining ways to shut down cell phone calls in and around future hostage-taking scenarios without also shutting down the communications devices of the police trying to rescue them, Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a congressional hearing yesterday.

Cell phones were simple tools used to deadly effect in the Mumbai terror attacks, Kelly told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs yesterday.

According to phone transcripts, the attackers received instructions and real-time updates about the officers amassing against them. Some of the phones they used for the calls apparently were taken from hostages.

That information, investigators believe, helped make the attack much more deadly as the gunman delayed capture.

The deadly attacks in India may have provided a low-frills but bloody blueprint for other violent groups to follow, Kelly and U.S. anti-terrorism officials told Congress.

The FBI’s chief intelligence officer told the hearing that the November siege showed that well-trained assailants with simple weaponry can cause massive casualties.

“I think we can expect that groups will look to that as a model for themselves,” Donald Van Duyn said at the hearing. “We sometimes focus on tactics that may be exotic and esoteric ... but for most terrorists, they’re looking for what works.”

His counterpart at the Department of Homeland Security, Charles Allen, told senators that “the sheer brutality of this attack, I believe, is the kind of thing that can be conducted against soft targets around the world.”

The attacks in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, left 164 dead and nearly 300 more wounded. Lawmakers held the hearing to discuss lessons learned from the ordeal.

Van Duyn said that as much as governments worry about chemical, biological or radiologic attacks, what happened in India may encourage terrorists to launch low-tech violence.

Allen said he was concerned that U.S. shopping malls develop effective evacuation plans. “This kind of attack, I think we have to be prepared for it and be prepared for soft targets to be attacked,” he said.

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