When the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency turned off cell phone service to disrupt peaceful protests, many were outraged -- including hacker collective Anonymous, which breached BART's Web site and released personal information in protest.
In "OpBART," Anonymous published more than 2,000 user names, passwords, and e-mail addresses that the hacker group had harvested from the "myBARTway" Web site. Among the released information were some telephone numbers and the street addresses of employees and customers.
Anonymous said in a statement, "We are releasing the User Info Database of MyBart.gov, to show that BART doesn't give a [expletive] about it's customers and riders and to show that the people will not allow you to kill us and censor us. This is but the one of many actions to come. We apologize to any citizen that has his information published, but you should go to BART and ask them why your information wasn't secure with them."
The disrupted protests concerned the recent slaying of a transient man by BART police in unclear circumstances. BART has claimed that protestors were coordinating movements via mobile devices, and that cutting off wireless service was necessary to ensure the safety of customers during rush hour.
On Jan. 1, 2009, a BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar Grant in the back while the unarmed man was lying face-down on the Fruitvale station platform. Mehserle was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years. After serving much of his time in a private cell at the Los Angeles County Jail, Mehserle was released on June 13, 2011.
Most recently, BART police officers shot 45-year old Charles Hill in the chest during a confrontation at the Civic Center station, killing him. Unlike the Grant shooting, there exist no clear video records of the shooting; BART police claim that Hill was threatening them with a knife (or two knives, and/ or a bottle) -- while witnesses have stated that "Hill was not running or lunging toward the officers," according to SFWeekly.
BART's actions come soon after UK Prime Minister David Cameron's calls to censor wireless communications following the "BlackBerry Riots" in London, which were also initiated by what some consider to be an unnecessary shooting of a man by police officers.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, made the connection to the Arab Spring uprisings, stating, "BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who ordered the shutdown of cell phone service in Tahrir Square in response to peaceful, democratic protests earlier this year...once BART made the service available, cutting it off in order to prevent the organization of a protest constitutes prior restrain on the free speech rights of every person in the station, whether they’re a protestor or a commuter."
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