Statement: “It was just after midday in San Diego, California, when the disruption started. In the tower at the airport, air-traffic controllers peered at their monitors only to find that their system for tracking incoming planes was malfunctioning. At the Naval Medical Center, emergency pagers used for summoning doctors stopped working. Chaos threatened in the busy harbour, too, after the traffic-management system used for guiding boats failed. On the streets, people reaching for their cellphones found they had no signal and bank customers trying to withdraw cash from local ATMs were refused,” New Scientist magazine wrote March 6, 2011.
Analysis: New Scientist, a magazine based in Great Britain, seemed to have uncovered a major incident in San Diego, one that received no local media attention at the time. According to the magazine, a global positioning system outage happened because the Navy accidentally jammed GPS signals in downtown San Diego.
The magazine uses the Jan. 22, 2007 incident to make a larger point about the fragility of the GPS signals used not only for car navigation but also in increasing numbers of everyday systems. “Some are worried that we are now leaning too heavily on a technology that can all too easily fail — and it doesn’t need a freak navy training exercise to cause havoc,” the New Scientist writes.
So did the incident actually happen? I contacted the port and the Federal Aviation Administration to ask about the problems it created. They said they had no idea what I was talking about. The Navy said it was mystified too. So I dug deeper.