Satellite Phones Distributed to Over Half of Senate Members: Escalating Security Concerns

Originally published May 22, 2023 2:00 pm PDT

In response to reported escalating security concerns for Congress members, satellite phones have been distributed to over half the Senate members, according to sources privy to the matter who reached out to CBS News.

These devices form a part of the comprehensive security upgrades being presented to the Senate by the newly-appointed Senate Sergeant at Arms, in the aftermath of the notorious U.S. Capitol unrest that took place on January 6, 2021.

The Senate Sergeant at Arms, Karen Gibson, had recently proposed to avail satellite communication devices to the entire Senate.

CBS News has gathered that at least 50 senators have taken possession of the offered phones.

The Senate’s administrative staff are advising the members to keep these devices nearby while traveling.

During her hearing with the Senate Appropriations Committee the previous month, Gibson emphasized the role of satellite communication in establishing a “redundant and secure means of communication during a disruptive event.”

These phones will serve as a security fallback during any emergency leading to a communication blackout across a portion of the nation.

The funds necessary for satellite airtime required to operate these devices will be sourced from federal financing.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) endorsed satellite phones as a vital resource for effective response and management of government services in the event of a communication breakdown triggered by any “man-made” or natural disaster.

In addition to this, Gibson has initiated a “demonstration space” in the Russell Senate Office Building’s basement to provide senators and their staff a chance to familiarize themselves with the latest security enhancements for their home state offices.

This space will showcase an array of protective measures, including “duress buttons,” safety glass to mitigate attack risks, and mail screening equipment.

Gibson spoke before the Senate panel in April about the strides made in bolstering security.

“Our team provided initial physical security enhancements for 31 offices and improved existing security for 52 others in 2022,” Gibson reported.

Emphasizing the priority of maintaining functional security systems, she added that their team had made “over 622 service calls to maintain, repair, and or test and inspect state office physical security systems in 2022.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday posted a video proposing a hypothetical situation in which “the internet is going down later this week.”

The video was about the “spread of misinformation” online.