NYPD Eyes Disrupting Cell Phones in Terrorist Threat

Kelly was among several law enforcement officials testifying about lessons learned from the Mumbai attacks

The New York Police Department is looking for new methods to disrupt cell phone calls and other forms of electronic communication among potential terrorists -- part of what the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies say are the “lessons learned” after the deadly November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly told federal anti-terror officials that the NYPD must have the ability to disrupt cell phone calls in the event of another planned attack on New York City

Fox News reports that a draft copy of Kelly’s statement to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security says the NYPD believes the Mumbai attacks could be a model for other low-tech attacks.  It was not clear whether the NYPD has the means to disrupt electronic communications for a small group of terrorists without shutting down cell phone service to a large part of New York City.

Kelly said that in the India attacks, the terrorists had handlers who used cell phones and other portable communication devices to order the killing of hostages and adjust tactics during the siege of Mumbai.

The 10 attackers, who Indian authorities say came from Pakistan, fanned out to locations such as hotels and buildings, taking and executing hostages and holding off Indian security forces for several days. The attacks left more than 170 people dead and some 300 wounded.

Kelly was among several state and federal law enforcement officials testifying to the Senate panel Thursday about lessons learned from the attacks. 

The FBI’s chief intelligence officer Donald Van Duhn, told the panel that as much as governments worry about chemical, biological, or radiological attacks, the Mumbai siege could encourage other terror groups to attempt similar low-tech violence.

Kelly’s testimony comes as the NYPD remains at odds with the Justice Department over efforts to loosen up a federal law governing electronic surveillance. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, warrants must be obtained to begin electronic monitoring of terror suspects, and the requests go through a multi-layered vetting process by the FBI and the Justice Department.

Kelly wants these agencies to expedite any NYPD request in order to combat fast-moving terror situations.

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