Aug 25 2011

BART doesn’t understand the duties of a common carrier

Yesterday the Bay Area Rapid Transit district (BART) held its first public discussion of BART’s recent actions to shut off wireless telephone and data service in parts of the BART system, and to close certain BART stations on the approach of certain groups of individuals, in order to prevent the use of those communications and transportation services and facilities by certain unnamed individuals and/or organizations (to wit, people seeking to express their opposition to various BART practices) who BART thought might, at some future time, use those communications and/or transportation facilities to commit some unspecified crime(s).

These actions by BART exemplify the post-9/11 focus of unconstitutional “pre-crime” police tactics on extra-judicial police control of access to transportation providers and other common carriers.

The following is a slightly extended and updated version of the testimony (video clip) given by Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project at yesterday’s public hearing (more) before BART’s elected Board of Directors at their Oakland, California, headquarters:

Edward Hasbrouck testifying to BART's Board of Directors

The Identity Project is part of the First Amendment Project, based here in Oakland but active nationally on civil liberties and human rights issues related to freedom of travel, movement, and assembly.

We are concerned that both BART’s selective denial of access to cellular phone and data service, and BART’s selective denial of access to transportation services, reflect a disturbing failure to understand what it means to be a “common carrier”.

As a common carrier, BART is required to provide transportation to all would-be passengers, just as a telecommunications common carrier is required to transport all would-be customers’ messages. A common carrier simply has no authority to refuse service to selected customers. That’s true regardless of what you think about who they are, where they are going, the content of their messages, the ideas or opinions they express, the reasons for which they are using your services (or those of other common carriers or third parties), or their future intentions. Read More

Aug 16 2011

Hearing in our lawsuit against DHS postponed until September 15th

The hearing in our Privacy Act and FOIA lawsuit against the Customs and Border Protection division of DHS, previously scheduled for August 25, has been postponed by the court until Thursday,  September 15, 2011, 1:30 p.m. in Federal court in San Francisco.

The hearing will still be held before Judge Richard Seeborg (Courtroom 3, 17th Floor), U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Ave. (between Polk and Larkin, near Civic Center), San Francisco, CA.

The public is welcome to attend the oral argument, although the guards at the entrance to the courthouse require visitors to show government-issued ID and submit to search to be admitted to the courthouse. (See also the court’s information for journalists and the local court rules for electronic devices in the courthouse.)

Aug 12 2011

Grassroots European opposition to US access to airline reservations

An almost-unprecedented campaign of pan-European grassroots lobbying and activism has emerged this summer in opposition to US access to PNR (Passenger Name Record) data from European airline reservations.

During the European Parliament’s summer recess, people from throughout the EU have been sending postcards from their holiday travels to the members of the European Parliament’s LIBE (civil liberties) Committee, urging MEPs to vote against the proposed EU-US agreement that would grant immunity from EU data protection law to both European and US companies that give the US Department of Homeland Security access to PNR data collected in Europe.

It’s a clever way of mobilizing grassroots action and popular pressure on a travel-related issue during the peak summer holiday travel period, when Parliament itself is on holiday along with most of the European travelers concerned about US access to airlines’ records of their travels.

Direct popular lobbying of MEPs is rare at any time of year. Each member of the US Congress receives hundreds or thousands of letters and dozens of constituent visitors in their offices each day, but a visit from a constituent is a once-a-month event, if that, for a typical MEP’s office in Brussels. ¬†Despite widespread dislike of many decisions taken by the EU institutions, and growing power of the EU relative to that of individual EU members, grassroots European campaigning remains almost entirely focused on national issues and national legislatures.

An equally-rare demonstration and other networking and activist events on this and related issues are being planned as part of Freedom Not Fear 2011 in Brussels on September 17-19, 2011.

We congratulate our European colleagues for taking the issue of US travel surveillance to the people and to the streets, and we urge our European supporters to join these campaigns.