A friend of mine works at a legal aid clinic that serves indigent people on Chicago's South Side. One of her cases involves a woman who was harassed and beaten by the police on a number of occasions. Sounds like a great case for a litigator, right? Sort of...

The thing about people who are harassed and beaten by the cops is, they generally don't make the best plaintiffs. By that, I mean that the cops rarely harass and beat people like me (white law students who drive nice cars). The woman in this case was black and had a criminal history (mainly drugs and prostitution). In these situations, it is almost always the cop's word against the black junkie prostitute who stands to get a BIG section 1983 award, and who do you think a jury is likely to believe?

But this case was different. When the cop began to harass her, the woman managed to dial into her voice mail using her cell phone, which recorded the event. With the audio tape, this woman's chances in court improve dramatically. The amazing thing is that it was completely accidental, she was just checking her messages and by chance caught it on tape.

The title to this node can be taken rather more literally, too. Police across Europe have recently started discovering guns disguised as mobile phones during arms dealing raids. Naturally, these can be easily sneaked into clubs, government offices and other areas where visitors are frisked for weapons.

The gun looks identical to a relatively modern mobile phone, but weighs far more. It contains four .22 bullets which are fired by pushing a keypad button, with the connect button used to expel empty shells. At close range, these guns are assuredly lethal, but apparently the accuracy is so tremendously poor that hitting your target is pot-luck.

Apparently these weapons are arriving from Russia and former East-Block countries, where the Russian Mafia have been using them as weapons in mob hits. Police in the UK fear they'll flood into the country, as the undetectable Saturday Night Special of choice.

Could be the making of a really good practical joke, though.
The Israeli Mossad used a cell phone as a weapon a couple of years ago, before the current cycle of violence. They had located a Hezbollah (I believe) commander responsible for several acts of terrorism, and they managed to infiltrate a cell phone to him somehow. When they were fairly sure he had it in his possession, they called it. He answered, and they used a touch-tone code to detonate the few ounces of plastic explosive they'd hidden in the phone casing. There's a rumor that they spoke with him briefly beforehand, saying something along the lines of 'Hey, listen up, it's us, check this out!'

While this might be a bit over the top, I probably wouldn't be able to resist it myself. Whether the state of Israel should be carrying out assassinations is another matter entirely, one on which I refuse to have an opinion here. ;-)

I was amazed when I read this node title. I thought someone had sneaked into one of my classes and written a node about what he saw. Then I clicked it and was mightily disappointed.

I'm getting ahead of myself - let me start from the beginning.

We had a new intern teacher in English class. In our school, all cell phones MUST be turned off during class or they'll be confiscated - we can then pick them upp at the principal's office at the end of the day. Anyway, in our first class with the new teacher, one of my classmates' phone rang.

BEEP BEEP BIPBIPBIPBIP - BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP - BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP - BIPBIPBIPBIPBIP - (Oops! I Did It Again, for those that hadn't already guessed it :)

And THAT was the moment she want insane. She screamed at him, told him to turn that "infernal machine" off.1


We were dumbfounded.
He did turn it off.
She didn't bother taking it from him, she just went off on a long monologue about how research hadn't proven them "safe" yet, and how inconsiderate it is to have a cell phone on when you haven't asked everyone else if they approve of it. We asked her if she'd actually seen someone ask first before turning their cell on. She told us that, no, she hadn't, but if SHE ever bought a cell phone, that's what she would do. "BUT IT'S DAMAGING MY HEALTH, GODDAMMIT!"

Mind you, this was just a year ago, not in The Stone Age or something. At that point, Sweden had the largest number of cell phones per capita (or possibly the second largest - I know Finland was really close) in the whole world.

Later, this whole business became a huge catchphrase in our class. Two people would call each other while holding their cells to someone else's head, while saying "We're giving you CANCER!"

So... don't underestimate the power of the cell phone as a weapon. Or I'll bring my English class and we'll give you cancer.

1 Helvetesmaskin in Swedish, pretty hard to make a good translation of.

Lookit all the upvotes! Lookit all the downvotes! Whee!

A cellular telephone really is becoming quite a serious weapon. Cellular phones have been thought to be used to remotely activate bombs; in locations where cellular phone service is unreliable or nonexistant (such as the London Underground), it has been suspected the mobile phones activated bombs connected to the battery by turning themselves on via the 'Alarm' function.

In response to the July 2005 London terrorist bombings, the New York subway has investigated blocking cellphone signals.

It basically comes down to the fact that cellphones happen to make quite a good detonator button, one that can be pressed from pretty much anywhere by anyone who knows the number. A cellphone could be used to dial a special extension on a computerized PBX that begins destroying evidence on a hard drive, etcetera -- then remove the extension from the PBX's database.

It's just another way of pushing the button.

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