They make wiretapping virtually useless. Since people can buy them without ID, there's no way to tell who's using the phone you're tapping.
The FBI reports 150 phones purchased in one sale, 60 in another. Police showed up at a Wal-Mart in Midland, Texas (President Bush's old home town) after six people tried to buy 60 of the disposable phones.
Even counter terrorism outfits have found the phones untracable. ABC News' Brian Ross reports:
The CIA recently used them in a kidnapping in Milan, Italy. Italian authorities were able to track the telephones. But they mostly tracked them to a dead end — the false identities in which they were purchased.The idea of using the disposable phones to avoid wiretaps is nothing new. Investigators say terrorists used disposable cell phones to set off explosives in the Madrid train bombings.
Even an episode of the Sopranos (right) a couple of seasons back had mobsters using the phones once, then tossing them, to avoid wiretaps. (ABC)