The ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce, Foreign Affairs, and Homeland Security committees called on the FCC today to crack down on cell-site simulators.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.), Eliot L. Engel (D., N.Y.), and Bennie G. Thompson (D., Miss.) cited news reports that the Department of Homeland Security has said in a letter that it is aware of “anomalous activity” in the Washington area and outside the region “that appears to be consistent with” the use of cell-site simulators, otherwise known as international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) catchers (TR Daily, April 4).
“Press reports surfaced earlier this week that the Department of Homeland Security had identified suspected, unauthorized cell-site simulators operating throughout Washington. More troubling, it appears that these cell-site simulators could be gathering intelligence on unwitting Americans on behalf of foreign governments. If these reports are true, it marks an incredible security vulnerability in the seat of the Federal government,” the Democrats said in their letter. “[N]o action has been taken to date to actually address this problem. With foreign actors now potentially taking advantage of the Commission’s inaction, the FCC should act, consistent with applicable law and regulations, to investigate these allegations and address any unlawful use of cell-site simulators in the Capital and anywhere else they are used in U.S. soil.”
An FCC spokesman said today that the agency has received the letter and is reviewing it.
The spokesman stressed yesterday in response to the DHS letter that “the FCC’s only role is certifying whether these devices meet our requirements for controlling radio interference and emissions in the same way that the FCC certifies all other devices that use airwaves, like cell phones and Wi-Fi. The FCC does not have jurisdiction relative to the legal authorization for use of the devices.” —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org