Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Yet again the group known as Anonymous, which has now absorbed the infamous LulzSecurity or LulzSec, carried out an attack on the website of San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and released the names and passwords of a whopping 2,001 users of their online service.
I stand behind Anonymous in one way, but completely oppose them at the same time and, unfortunately, this is not the first time.
I support their opposition to BART’s egregious attack on free speech, but I cannot understand how releasing the names and passwords of everyday users of their site is remotely productive.
Knowing that these combinations can be used to breach other sensitive accounts if people use the same password across sites (which far too many do), and also knowing that this could very well be used by hackers to rob people blind, how can Anonymous think this is positive?
To make matters worse for this detrimental attack, some individuals had their personal addresses and phone numbers released! What good can Anonymous see coming out of this? How is screwing over average Americans going to help stop the actions of BART?
Furthermore, these frivolous attacks, as I have said in the past, serve as yet another bullet point on the list of reasons Washington can use to eliminate all Internet freedom.
These attacks were in response to BART’s Mubarak-like move made in an attempt to stop a protest in which they illegally blocked the use of cell phones. Of course, BART is claiming this was totally legal and CNET, which since 2008 has been owned by CBS, supported this story by also claiming they were well within their legal rights to impinge on our freedom of speech in order to quell political dissent.
CNET claimed that BART was “within their legal rights,” yet, this is so far from the truth it would be laughable if it wasn’t so disturbing that people actual read things like that and believe it.
The fact is, it is a direct violation of Section 333 of the Communications Act of 1934, which therefore means that BART was breaking Federal law. How the editors of CNET could let such a blatant lie be published on their site is beyond me.
Only Federal agencies may block cell phone communications and only under certain specific circumstances. BART is neither a Federal agency, nor were the circumstances there to justify such an action even if they were a Federal agency!
An article in SF Gate pointed this out and, unlike the trash published by CNET, they actually backed up their claims with the language straight out of the Federal law. The utter drivel published by CNET just proves that much of the mainstream media stands proudly behind government tyranny, even when it is violating the government’s own laws.
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.”
This incident should be frightening to anyone who enjoys their freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble and protest.
A BART Police Lieutenant, Andy Alkire, told a San Francisco online newspaper called SF Appeal that their cell phone jamming operation was “a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose.”
This specific purpose, in this case means a legitimate and legal protest. I’m sure that tyrants the world over would agree, but our Constitution is supposed to protect us from this kind of naked oppression.
Alkire attempted to justify this by saying that they were attempting to stop a potentially volatile situation from developing. He said, “This group seems to want to challenge BART, challenge the police department.”
Sorry, Andy, but this is America and we are allowed to challenge BART and every police department as much as we please.
Not surprisingly, they are also attempting to divide and marginalize the protesters by painting them as dangerous and unsafe.
BART spokesperson Linton Johnson instructed travelers to, “Report unsafe behavior, do not confront protesters. Stay out of harm’s way.”
Conflating protesters and violent criminals has been a useful tactic throughout recent times to make average citizens feel like they should not agree with or participate in protests.
As you can see, I am staunchly opposed to this move by BART and I happily condemn them for this. However, I would never be able to justify leaking personal information of users who happen to have signed up for their website that notifies consumers of discounts, events and contests.
As I have pointed out in previous articles, if Anonymous actually cared about political activism and freedoms they would help organize protests and actual activism, not “hacktivism” that is both detrimental to the victims of the attacks and useful for those pushing an anti-Internet freedom agenda.
Obviously this move by Anonymous has already irked the innocent victims of the hack attack, and this frivolous leak of personal data has actually moved some to support BART!
One unnamed woman who had her personal information published by Anonymous told SF Gate, “I’m not upset at BART for shutting the cell service, I’m upset at whoever is hacking this and publishing the information. They are marking themselves look bad and they are disrupting BART service. They’re making people unsafe.”
Clearly I do not agree with her first statement, but indeed Anonymous is making themselves look bad and are possibly putting people in danger of having their identity stolen, not to mention violating their right to privacy.
Friday’s protest against BART never occurred, and now Anonymous is just helping along the illegal and highly unconstitutional anti-Internet freedom movement.
If you think Anonymous is helping us by releasing personal information of innocent people that had absolutely nothing to do with the cell phone shutdown in any way, shape, or form, I would love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know why exactly you think this is okay and what you think they are accomplishing by carrying out these hack attacks, other than exposing security holes in municipal websites.