NEWS

Smartphones Could Double as Bombs, Warns U.S. Court Committee

By Matthew Harwood

Wireless devices like smartphones could pose a bomb threat to federal courts, according to guidance issued last week by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

"These common devices present security issues because some can be and have been converted for use as weapons, including explosives," the 8-page memo warns (.pdf). "These devices can also be operated remotely, which increases the risk."

The guidance was developed by the Judicial Conference of the United States' Committee on Court Administration and Case Management. The conference is the principal policy-making body of the federal court system.

The guidance document, which is marked "2010 Update," also cites concern that increasing use of non-metallic materials to manufacture wireless devices will make them easier to smuggle into courthouses undetected.

The guidance separately cautions that unaltered, functioning wireless devices snuck into courtrooms could be used to take "pictures of jurors, witnesses, or undercover agents which may be used to intimidate or bring harm to these individuals."

The document suggests that federal courts should conduct risk assessments on those entering the courthouse or the courtroom.

"It would be useful to consider each category of person utilizing the courthouse to identify needs and risks,' the document advises. "For example, some groups, such as court employees, members of the bar, and contract employees who have undergone a background check, might be allowed greater use of electronic devices in the courthouse or courtroom, compared to the general public and jurors."

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