These hooligans. You can still see the damage down on Wall Street. Just walk over to 23 Wall Street and look at the wall. All those pockmarks? That’s when the anarchists’ bomb (100lb of Dynamite, 500lb of window sash weights) exploded in the middle of a lunchtime crowd, killing 38. It was 16 September, 1920.
Fast forward today–and the damned anarchists are still with us. Except this time, they’re the nihlist sons of upper middle class and wealthy white guys. You know, like Osama bin Laden. But we already have the tools at our disposal to find them and take them down. The answer, literally, is in the palm of our hands.
Their cell phones. Forget about the CoVid-19 trace and track spyware that Apple and Google installed with their latest software update–the basic operation of these phones makes them ideal tracking devices to find and nail these destructive bastards. First, though, a quick primer on how they work.
Each cell phone has something called a SIM card in them. On that card is a International mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) that tells the cell phone network who it is. When your phone gets a cell signal, there’s a process that matches the IMSI with the cell phone number. It’s the IMSI that is used to talk to the cell phone tower, not the phone number.
The cell phone tower–that’s the key to everything. Mobile networks must know what cell phone tower a phone is on in order to sent the call (and text messages) to the phone. A phone may register on several towers, but only one has the strongest signal–that’s the tower that talks to the phone. And those IMSIs are recorded (for how long, I have no idea)
So, here’s how we catch the bastards. Collect all IMSIs and their related towers in a riot zone. Expand the zone as much as possible. Correlate all IMSIs with the towers. It’s a crude, but servicable tracking methodology. If this was on a screen, you’d see a bunch of dots (each dot a cell phone) crawling across a map to the riot scene. Work it backwards. Where did this IMSI come from? The airport? Out of town? Which other IMSIs were with it? Were they at other riots?
Sure, it’s a huge amount of data–but that’s what computers are for. It shouldn’t be too hard for a developer to write a program to do a distributed computing task and have every police department in the US crunching the numbers. Pretty soon there are correlations. That’s when you go to the judge, get a subpoena, and ask the mobile phone companies to match the IMSI to the phone number and thus to the person. Then you’ve got ’em.
It’s not perfect. Some of the upper echelon types will use burner phones to avoid the last step, but I suspect that a lot of these guys will be bringing their regular phones to the riots. Round them up, RICO the snot out of them, take them on a tour of a state-level general population prison, and watch them roll over and beg for mercy….and give up the organizers.
Best of all, we can do the hard stuff–the sheer computaitonal work–without the need for legal paperwork. An IMSI by itself means nothing, and tracking cell phone movement to and from a riot scene is an exercise in computer modelling. It’s data we have now, modelling that can be done currently, and it’s unhampered by legal pettifoggery (as far as I know–IANAL).
Come on, DoJ–let’s nail these scumbags!