Texas: FCC flip-flops on phone jamming

Dec. 17, 2008 at 9:29 AM

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Texas officials say the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is flip-flopping on the legality of a cell phone jamming device it wants to test in a prison.

A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says the FCC is sending contradictory messages over a plan by prison officials to test a device they say is capable of blocking illegal usage of cellphones by inmates while not interfering with the calls of nearby civilians, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday.

Texas prison officials Monday canceled a planned demonstration of the jamming technology at the state jail in Austin after receiving word from federal authorities the demonstration would violate laws banning interference with radio waves. But on Tuesday FCC spokesman Robert Kenny surprised Texas officials with a statement proposing that the state move ahead with the test, the newspaper said.

"Only in Washington can a federal agency encourage conduct it previously said was unauthorized," Jerry Strickland, Abbott's communications director, told reporters, adding the cell phone-jamming test remained on hold until a clear legal opinion could be formed.

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