Lawmaker suggests San Francisco subway agency went 'too far'

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) suggested the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) agency may have gone "too far" when it shut down cell service to control a protest last week.

"BART is learning a lesson that requires closer examination," said Speier, who represents part of San Francisco and San Mateo County. "I believe BART needs to work harder to understand the ever-changing relationship between security and liberty. And to this end, we should replace finger-pointing with constructive dialogue that addresses security measures that go too far."


BART shut off the devices that allow for cellphone reception in four underground subway stations last week. The move was aimed at disrupting a protest over a fatal police shooting. According to BART, service outside the stations was not affected.

Civil liberties groups criticized the move, which they said infringed on passengers' free speech rights.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission confirmed that the agency was looking into BART's actions.

The FCC may have jurisdiction over the issue under the Communications Act of 1934. Section 333 of the Act states, "No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this chapter."

When asked about the FCC's probe, Linton Johnson, a BART spokesman, said only: "It's not an investigation it is an inquiry."

In retaliation for the cell disruption, hackers attacked two BART websites this week and released private information on users and BART police officers.