BART Transit System (Illegally) Kills Cell Phone Service to Stop Protests

This is a simply awesome indicator of how totally the rule of law has collapsed in the hands of our corporate overlords.

Oakland —

BART’s shut-off of subterranean cell phone service in its downtown San Francisco stations may have prevented a protest Thursday, but it sparked accusations Friday that the action stifled free speech and smacked of the kind of government intrusion employed by Middle East dictators.

“All over the world, people are using mobile devices to protest oppressive regimes, and governments are shutting down cell phone towers and the Internet to stop them,” said Michael Risher, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “It’s outrageous that in San Francisco, BART is doing the same thing.”

BART officials acknowledged Friday afternoon that they had switched off the transit system’s underground cell phone network, which runs from Balboa Park Station through the Transbay Tube, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday to prevent protesters from coordinating plans to stop trains.

A cluster of groups under the “No Justice, No BART” banner said on websites that they planned to protest the fatal July 3 shooting of a knife-wielding man, Charles Blair Hill, by BART police. Protesters briefly shut down the Civic Center, Powell Street and 16th Street Mission stations July 11. Trains ran through the stations without stopping.

BART admits halting cell service to stop protests

Of course the fact that ONLY the Federal goverment has (in what is now vague theory, used to be called LAW) the right to interfere with radio transmissions, and then only under very specific circumstances, well, so what?

From the FCC website:

In recent years, the number of websites offering “cell jammers” or similar devices designed to block communications and create a “quiet zone” in vehicles, schools, theaters, restaurants, and other places has increased substantially. While these devices are marketed under different names, such as signal blockers, GPS jammers, or text stoppers, they have the same purpose. We remind and warn consumers that it is a violation of federal law to use a cell jammer or similar devices that intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications such as cell phones, police radar, GPS, and Wi-Fi. Despite some marketers’ claims, consumers cannot legally use jammers within the United States, nor can retailers lawfully sell them.

Jamming Cell Phones and GPS Equipment is Against the Law
According to a citation issued January 26, 2011, by the Federal Communications Commission against Comtrex Communications for illegal cell phone jamming, Section 333 of the Communications Act of 1934 states, “[n]o person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government.” and Section 302(b) of the Communications Act provides that “[n]o person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this section.”

There’s no evidence provided by any BART representative that such legal issues were considered before initiating the cell phone blocking action – BART seems to have just plain went ahead and done it.

For example, BART Police Lt. Andy Alkire told the SF Appeal that the cell phone blocking action was “a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose.” But by that, the BART assumption seems to be that it was legal – it wasn’t.

BART Cell Phone Blocking Action Was Illegal – Update

What BART did was clearly illegal.

I am not holding my breath expecting any consequences.

The rule of law in this nation died under Bush/Cheney, and Obama decided it was not appropriate to look backward and resurrect it.


Author: Ron