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Swiss move to block Al Qaeda mobile phone supply

It's not just the clocks, then?

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With commendable swiftness the Swiss parliament has moved to cut off Al Qaeda's mobile phone supply, reacting to an almost entirely imaginary scare set off by intelligence services just a few days ago. Switzerland, you'll recall, was allegedly one of the few places where you could buy a prepaid GSM SIM module for cash, without the phone network ever having to know who you really are.

We at The Reg expressed our doubts about this, and within hours had reports from all over Europe of how you could easily buy international-rated SIM modules for cash, no ID, no problem. We got the impression that most stores would probably call the police if you tried to force your details on them, and we were particularly impressed by the ease with which you could buy them in France, where they're actually supposed to take your details. You can even get round this by buying the French ones from a certain well-known UK chain; frankly, France Telecom's insistence on your filling in a form prior to buying one online sits as a splendid example of rectitude, isolated in a world of terror-friendly laxity.

But never mind. The anonymous Swiss SIM is no more, and Switzerland has moved from being the communications supplier of choice for the uninformed terrorist who should get out more to just about the only place in Europe where terrorists won't be arranging to phone home. Or has it?

The new regulation, as reported by Reuters, requires that records on users be kept for two years, and the Swiss are looking at figuring out how many are being used today, where and why. So presumably they'll be phoning up bemused American tourists and saying: "Hello? Osama?"

Once they've got records on all the cards in use, the security procedures will be simple. If they've caught an Al Qaeda terrorist and discovered he's using a Swiss SIM, they can look up the record of his address, then go and arrest him. No, we'll try that again. When they notice a suspicious pattern of usage, with calls being made from suspicious locations like Islamabad, Baghdad and Finsbury Park, they can look up the address he filled in and go and arrest him. No, we're not sure that works either... ®

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