Goverment Jams Protest Organizers: “Do You Have a Fundamental Right to Cell Phone Service?”

by | Aug 15, 2011 | Headline News | 53 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    As was suggested in Signs of Coming Riots, there are a variety of trends developing throughout the United States that indicate mid-east, Greek and London style riots are coming to the streets of America.

    The question is, how far should cops go to thwart social network and cell phone organization of protests?

    Via CBS San Francisco:

    A planned protest at the Bay Area Rapid Transit Service’s Civic Center station over the shooting of a man last month failed to materialize during Thursday afternoon’s commute.

    As an added precaution, the agency shut off cellphone service on the station’s platform. While Alkire said the tactic was an unusual measure, he said it was “a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose” given that the agency was expecting a potentially volatile situation.

    Is jamming cell phone signals a viable, constitutionally-protected option for police, or do such actions by police and governments fall within the same  realm as Iran’s response to quelling organized protests by shutting off access to Facebook and Twitter? We note that at the time the Iranian government shut down the ability for protesters to organize they were met with strong opposition by none other than our own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said:

    “The United States believes passionately and strongly in the basic principle of free expression.”

    “We promote the right of free expression.”

    “And it is the case that one of the means of expression, the use of Twitter is a very important one, not only to the Iranian people but now increasingly to people around the world, and most particularly to young people.”

    “And I think keeping that line of communications open and enabling people to share information, particularly at a time when there was not many other sources of information, is an important expression of the right to speak out and to be able to organize.”

    -Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    Casey Jordan, of TrueTV, makes a loosely knit  argument on CNN that police should be able to shut off cell phone service in the interest of public safety, with her argument essentially boiling down to a “cost benefit analysis”:

    Whether it’s legal or not it hasn’t been tested in the courts. Public safety exceptions to, or encroachments on our personal freedoms, do happen. And remember we just had evidence of that protest getting out of control last month. Of course everyone wants their personal freedoms. They fear censorship. They’re all worried about living in a police state, and yet, when a protest turns into violence and people get hurt they love to blame the police. They can’t have it both ways.

    There’s nothing to stop the protest from happening. They didn’t try to shut down the protest. They simply turned off the cell service so that it couldn’t become viral.

    The framers of the Constitution could not possibly have foreseen the world that we now live in with our smart phones and our WiFi and our hotspots. The bottom line is it was a lot different 200 years ago when your protest was standing on a soap box on the street corner. Now you can incite people with misinformation, with calls to violence, and in many ways things can get out of hand.

    You have to ask yourself, do you have a fundamental right to cell service?

    We are anxiously awaiting Secretary Hillary Clinton’s response on the matter. If it is acceptable for the Iranians and other protest organizers around the world to use cell phones and social networks, so too must it be acceptable for U.S. citizens to engage in the same activities. Or were those just platitudes and propaganda statements? (rhetorical question)

    Ms. Jordan asks if we have a fundamental right to cell phone service. In response, we suggest that, like health care, there is no such fundamental right.

    What we do have, however, is a fundamental right to engage in a person-to-person or person-to-business contract with a cell phone service provider and a health care provider, without the interference of government. This is a private transaction, and one that sits outside of the boundaries of law enforcement or the government unless probable cause or evidence exists that a crime is about to be, or has been, committed. Using as evidence the crimes of others, as in the case of riots that occurred a month prior, is not justification or evidence that a crime will be committed in the future.

    Because protests and their organization are in and of themselves a protected Constitutional right, BART and San Francisco police did, in fact, trample those rights by jamming private cell phone signals. They not only violated the personal contract of individuals acting within the law using their cell phones signals, but attempted to mute a right protected by the Constitution.

    In response to Ms. Jordan’s claim that the framers could not possibly have foreseen cell phones and social networks, we say so what? This argument is completely irrelevant.

    Are we to believe that during the soapbox speeches and writings of our Framers and the other Patriots of that time there was no misinformation, no calls to violence? When revolution broke out in the colonies, did things not “get out of hand?” The technology for delivery of the message has changed, but the messengers have not.

    Certainly, protests may turn to riots. There may be violence. People on both sides may get hurt. This is the nature of such things.

    But, the right to assemble in protest is fundamental – whether it is done by a cell phone text message, a tweet or by the voice coming from your mouth.

    This right itself is absolutely essential to the survival of our nation, regardless of the outcomes of the  assemblies themselves.

    Hat tip Paul D., Jim, Brother Slavo


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      1. Anonymous hacked the SF BART site last night, and they are scheduling another protest tonight. Wish I could go! These coppers (not just in SF) are getting out of order. Protect and serve, or pummel and imprison..?

        • Anonymous should hack BART’s whole system and cut their power

      2. Government will take what ever rights they want. In this era of unknown local government will take up front and ask for forgiveness later. What ramifications would they face if a court said “don’t do that?” NONE

      3. A cellphone is an extension of my person, my property. No one should have the right to silence my voice if I am peacefully protesting my disagreement with rampant systemic changes that affect my liberty and the liberty of my American brethren, regardless of if I am using a toilet paper roll to trumpet my cause or a “sophisticated” mobile communications device.

        First the technology was made ubiquitous. Now the reigns are slowly being tightened to control the masses. Our electronic communications are already tapped; our locations are recorded at all times; yet it’s still not enough. When will it be enough control for the PTB? History gives us examples of where this road leads—haven’t we been down that road enough times to have learned what happens next..?

      4. The officers of the corp believe it is the source of your rights, not the protector of them. It will do as it pleases so long as the people allow it, continue to send it the proceeds from their labor, and grant it legal title to their property.

        Whatever it does to you, you are paying for it yourself and doing it voluntarily. If you do that, you not only lose any rights, but you gave them away freely.

        What are you complaining about? Get in bed with the beast and it will stick things where you may not want them. That is the cost of your slavery.

        Make sure your permission slips are up to date so it can find you when it wants to,

      5. We have the right to PEACEABLY assemble, not the right to assemble for the purpose of looting, destroying public or private property, or assult other individuals.

        • @Muddy1

          Yes, we do. Luckily. What happens when the police are the ones who are assaulting non-violent, innocent individuals. And when they steal or destroy the property of private citizens? How about when they put undercover, plain clothes police into the protest in order to escalate violence? How do we assemble under those circumstances?

      6. You just knew that was coming back around to bite her on the ankles. EH doesn’t care.

      7. Sheesh

      8. Look folks if you don’t think the government switch off phone and internet service, I have a bridge for sale.

        Why would the government jam towers when they can just switch them off. Yes we can jam, but in CONUS why bother when they can just pull the plug.

        If the government is allowed to unplug or jam for any reason. We have all just lost our first amendment freedom.

        They will say its to protect you from a flash mob, its for your safety. This is how they get you to approve their unconstitutional actions.

      9. For me, the bottom line is that I pay for unrestricted service thru a private contract for my cell service. No where in my contract does it say that the government has the right to disconnect me at will. Sue ’em for hacking into your cell service 😀

      10. You have a right to peaceful assembly. If the police knew that specific people were going to riot, they should have arrested those individuals, not shut down a protest. Having said that, this was a good heads up for the rest of you. The police already have the ability in place to shut down citizen communication at the local level. Also remember from Katrina, FEMA came in and took over all communications, in order to manufacture the governments view of things. Is anyone out there into short wave radio? I don’t think there was much in the news during Katrina about Short wave radio activity. Was short wave radio jammed by the feds back then?

      11. BART did not jam the cellular signals. They turned off the repeaters they own in the tunnels. No other cellular phone company owns the repeaters in the BART tunnels.

        Do I think it is right? No, it is a very slippery slope. However, BART did not trample on anyone’s rights because they did not take away another company’s service, or jam everyone’s phone. They very simply turned off the repeaters in the tunnels.

        It is important to remember this one little tidbit. BART OWNS those repeaters. No one else owns them. Before you get upset about it, ask yourself this question: Does Bank of America (or any other company) have the right to prevent cell service in the banks (or company building) they own and operate?

        • John, that’s true but…who owns BART? Maybe I’m wrong but I thought that was a gov run entity, so all the people of the bay area actually own it. Or is it a private company contracting a service to the gov? Just asking.

        • You didn’t have to reveal where you work for.

      12. PO, you are right to an extent. In the private corporate world your right to free speech does not include using the corps resources and technology. Your use is a privilege, not a right.

        Jamming is a lot easier than taking down and putting back up a system. It’s not like a light switch.

        • Your right, but its only like a reboot. As for the private corporation technology, I have a contract so its no a privilege.

          The fact is most will only think they have no bars.

          • PO, you have a fictional contract. As a bankrupt entity without the ability to earn lawful money to pay debt, created by another bankrupted entity to discharge its own debt, you have no right to contract.

            That’s is what people fail to understand. EVERYTHING you do is a privilege if it involves using the banksters FRN’s, which are nothing but accounting units to keep track of the debt of the corp.

            There are no private corporations, only bankrupt corporations that are privileged to exist to discharge the debt of the corp. The so-called private corporations can no more earn lawful money than you, thus they can not lawfully contract either.

            The masses are stuck between worlds. The one they think they live in, and the one they do live in. Until enough people recognize the fiction for what it is, and themselves for what they are, there is little hope.

      13. What about the aspect of this being Denial Of Service. If I am paying for a service and they jam it, that’s DOS…

      14. As far as im concerned they can take it all down..but they will be fucking themselfs too, so it will be selective and with purpose.

        our media is already manipulated..and the constant lies from the “so called leaders” its no surprise to me that social networking and cell phones to be a target of the Corp.

        people assembled or networked before these systems were in place..they will find a way will just take a bit before they go back to the old ways, and all these new fangled ways to communicate will sit idle as the government tries to manipulate the masses with them..and they will wonder how the communication is getting done with out these precious cell phones

        those of us that still remember how it used to be , before cell phones , will still have communication by the balls

        • If they dont have em already they soon will…signal blocker disablers…they block you you block them…al is well!

      15. Ding, ding, ding. VRF is correct. It will come back around.

        Somebody put a hope & change bumper sticker on that black bus I’m paying for.

      16. …It is called PRIOR RESTRAINT, and it is not legal (i.e. it does not pass Constitutional muster) for the government to stop YOU from exercising your rights because there is a slim chance that some crime MIGHT be committed by someone else. It is akin to banning all driving after 8pm because drunk driving happens to be more common after that hour.

      17. in all things-be prepared….in our neck of the woods modern day conveniences are not always best even on a good day. here, ya better know your neighbors, know the traffic patterns, and have a signal ready when needed.

      18. That’s what happens when your government and big business owns you.

        OsiXs (Revolution 2.0)

      19. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

        When the time comes, I’ll have portable FRS/GMRS ‘cuz .gov WILL shut off cell service and probably the internet as well.

      20. Mad Max: The “revolution” they propose at Rev 2.0 is not an American revolution. It is the tyranny of the proletariat. WE saw that in the Soviet Union. We don’t want that. WE want OUR revolution and OUR Constitution.

        As it was written and originally applied the US Constitution is the the liberation of all people, because it emphasizes personal liberty and encourages personal initiative.

        WE don’t want a society based upon: “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”. We have seen that. It doesn’t work, and is part of the problem WE have now.

        Entitlements are given to global corporate fascists and to illegals, while American taxpayer wealth is transferred to China and India under the managed (free trade) trade of the gangster banksters.

        Americans want a level playing field, not a communist or socialist society. REV 2.0 is probably wasting its breath trolling for potential socialists here.

      21. We have the right to peaceful assembly. That does not include obstructing others. This is where the right ends. Gotta ask yourself the bigger question, “If the beef was with BART, why was the demonstration at a station and NOT at BART HQ?” Obviously the intent was disruption.

        Next. Put a sock in it. The gov’t has the authority to manage radio spectrum through the NTIA to FCC to cell phone providers. Does BART have the authority to turn off a light? How about one of their trains? Then why not their cell phone repeater? If I own the boom box at the party, I have the right to turn it off or are you arguing that the people have the right to use your property? Stand on the public corner with your bullhorn and squawk all you want. You still don’t have any right to use someone else’s property and damn sure don’t to break the law.

        And Hillary? She is just the official mouth in dealings at the international level: not in the USA. Just US-international political posturing. Secretary of State – State Dept – Embassies? Ring a bell? Don’t they teach civics in high school anymore? Probably not. Been a good 15 years since my youngest graduated. So I could be far out of date. Reckon that could be the problem with us old farts; we remember too much of what was. I miss the pinochle parties.

        • @overtheedge

          The reason BART does not turn off all the lights or stop trains at will is because it poses a serious danger to the public at large. Even if the power were to go out, they have emergency backup systems in place to keep at least some lights on and the trains running if at all possible.

          Why should cellular phone service be any different when people have come to expect it as a means of constant communication, much like we expect the lights and trains to function properly without some clowns on a power trip shutting them off to see what will happen when they do?

          BTW, BART happens to be the very first underground rail system in the world to have cell towers installed (2004). There are some important reasons for that, too (e.g., earthquakes, train accidents, terrorist attacks, as well as domestic police officers run amok). The cell phone can be yet another bullhorn to alert people to stand together. I know it’s a challenge for older generations to adopt new technologies and services, but for the younger generations they are a way of life. Like the light bulb and the electric train!

          This issue now has FCC attention. Without the disruptions, this would have been glossed over and become standard operating procedure whenever the govt and it’s officers didn’t like what people were doing.

          You say you were educated in the old days…where? Mother Frickin’ Russia?!

        • “The gov’t has the authority to manage radio spectrum through the NTIA to FCC to cell phone providers. ”

          The legitimate government would serve such a purpose, unfortunately we don’t have one.

      22. From the Lost & Found Department:
        LOST- one medium sized MOJO. Partially used. Half black, half white. Shiney, smooth and slick on the outside and rotten and hollow inside. No commercial value left, but great sentimental value to owner. Desperately need it returned before Nov 2012. Reward offered. If found, please contact Barry asap at 1600 Penn. Ave. Washington, District of OZ.

        Seems the Bomster is losing his touch. He gave a speech in Minnesota and the people just kinda stood there with their hands in their (empty) pockets and looking sullen.

      23. I wish they’d just work on blocking the damn cell phones in restaurants and movie theaters. Let the freaks burn down the bus depots and subways.

      24. Latest update from Mercury News has a nice tidbit about the FCC:

        “Any time communications services are interrupted, we seek to assess the situation,” FCC spokesman Neil Grace said in an e-mail.

        “We are continuing to collect information about BART’s actions and will be taking steps to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised, including protecting public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks.”

        The FCC already has been in touch with BART administrators and plans to reach out to passengers, free speech advocates and other interested parties.

        Bro Slavo

      25. You have a “right” to cell phone service if you pay for it. The govt has no right to interfere with the private market.

        There are no God given rights or govt given rights to cell phone service however. Contrary to what our govt & welfare moochers think.

      26. Gotta love Hillary. Do you actually think she is for the people, get real. The governement will lock down cells and sat coms in a minute if riots or protests are not in the governments best interests. Hillary last week speaking about Syria killing a little girl, yet we kill them all the time and nothing is said.

      27. Quote:
        “Why should cellular phone service be any different when people have come to expect it as a means of constant communication, …”

        An expectation is NOT an entitlement or a right. Did you or anyone else contract with BART for cell service? BART’s fiduciary responsibility is to provide safe and reliable rapid transport. Of course the FCC will look into it. Politics make it mandatory.

        “I know it’s a challenge for older generations to adopt new technologies and services, but for the younger generations they are a way of life.”

        I own and operate my own ground satellite station: uplinks and downlinks (2M). Constructed and designed by myself with part commercial and part home-msde components. Got home-made doppler radar (10GHz) too. New technology? Bullshit! Hams were playing with all this so-called new tech before your whiney ass was born. We pioneered the cell phone concept. Do a google search for IRLP. Did you mean adapting to as in “using with confidence” or adopting as in “embracing as my own”? STFU

        “You say you were educated in the old days…where? Mother Frickin’ Russia?!”

        Was it your vast educational experience that brought you to that inquiry? Perhaps you failed to grasp the difference between a light and the lights. Same with trains; a train NOT the trains. Hint: if it ends in “s” it is plural and without an “s” it is singular. Get a real education.

        You all might want to read your cell service contract. There are no guarantees of coverage and your roaming service is damn sure not guaranteed. But what’cha expect from folks that can’t tell the difference between plural and singular nouns. Can’t read either. What an educational system ours has devolved into.

        Someone asked the question about shortwave during and after Katrina. Hams were running health and welfare traffic throughout the disaster and ensuing fiasco. An Amateur radio license is an asset for local as well as long-distance commo. (No morse code required.) I even receive ham radio signals bounced off the moon just above 144MHz. Won’t be able to moonbounce my own signal until my 4×2.2M yagi array finished (home-made) and I reform the electrolytic caps in the homebrewed 1KW amplifier using a pair of 4CX250B’s. Oh, but I forgot we older generations have trouble “adopting” to new technology. STFU

        • We aren’t talking about one cell phone, we are talking about hundreds of cell phones across stations. That’s cell phones, hundreds and stations with an “s” at the end of each. If we were speaking of one phone being affected, this wouldn’t have become the problem it has become. I remember the discussion being about the right to unrestricted cell phone service, though, and not what you thought about my understanding of English grammar based on a singular forum post.

          IMO your argument is completely irrelevant because you compare an overly simplified situation to a significantly more complex one, each with drastically different results. Thus, they are not able to be compared accurately in this case. But, if it makes you feel smarter, more educated and superior, then be my guest. Delusions are a dime-a-dozen.

          To reiterate, turning off a singular light or a singular train is not likely to cause a major public disruption (though it may). Turning off a singular cell phone would not likely cause a major public disruption either (though it may also). Conversely, turning off hundreds of cell phones to stop communication between private citizens organizing a peaceful protest without notification to the public-at-large prior to the shutoff…that will more than likely (and in fact did) cause a major public disruption that could affect public safety, which seems to be your original argument for turning the signals off.

          Glad you have a satellite company. New technology was in reference to the way in which a society evolving uses it, not to when it was invented.

          Love you (mean it!),

      28. OTE, you sure have a lot of knowledge, unfortunate though that your disposition and temperament/personality absolutely suck.

      29. I think it’s foolish to rely on a single type of technology to do a protest. cell phones and computers are still rather new. Seriously, if you are gonna have a riot or organize a protest have some wits about it and use a secured form of communications.

      30. These people are organizing to Rape, Pillage and Plunder.This is evidenced by recent similar events and they DO NOT have a constitional right to do this.

      31. If you have friends with the same amount of minutes service, swap phones among the several,…You would need to use their number, but if you do it from the get-go,their number will become your number…

      32. Have you ever tried to make a cell call in a casino? Doesn’t happen. Of course a business or public entity has the right to control the environment within their own premises’.

        Just because this was done to protect the public and public property rather than private property, doesn’t make it any different. They have the right to provide service or deny that same service as long as it is done universally to all customers present at the same time. There was no discrimination; all cell phone service was cut off, not just one or two supplying companies.

      33. PLEASE PLEASE stop asking if something/anything is “legal” or not. The question is quaint, bordering on embarrassing. There IS NO “legal” anymore. “Legal” is irrelevant.

      34. Glad they jammed the cell phones. Good going. Got to stop the thugs. It is either cell phone jamming or .44 magnum in the chest. Your choice. You can still assemble. Go ahead. You just can’t do your damn thug flash mob. Wah wah wah. Find some other way to express your criminality. Be sure to wear a bullet-proof vest if you do it around me. You’ll need one, sucka.

      35. Pretty amazing to me, that no one seems to realize that the police do, in fact, know when you are going to assemble for lawful purposes and when you are going to assemble for unlawful purposes. It is what they use the Pre-Cogs for–to see into the future and determine who will commit crimes so they can be stopped before they are committed. Clearly, this is all done for the good of society, and the power of the Pre-Cogs would never be abused in any way. Thankfully, our benevolent leaders have our best interest in mind. Oh, wait, that was all fiction, right?

        CajunMan69–You are funny–you must be a Pre-Cog. Well, you can make a lot of money if your turn your uncanny future-vision to the stock market. You can be worth billions of dollars in a matter of days if you are as accurate picking stocks as you think you are in figuring out why people are assembling.

        So many of the same Statists who bowed down and cried at the election of their Messiah to the Presidency, are now whining about cell phone service being impaired by the freaking police state their mentality promotes. Statists are the problem. If they cared one bit about liberty and our future, the first thing they would do is work to oust Obama and his slavish Congressional drones. These people are evil, and they are doing all they can to: (1) destroy our economy; (2) create chaos and violence; (3) use that to “restore order” through government control; (4) assume absolute power. If you did not see this one coming in 2008, then you were a fool. Is it to late to stop them? Vote them out in 2012 and see if we can save some semblance of a free and decent society.

      36. Hitler and Stalin also shut down free speech. Mr. Obama, this is America – the home of the free and the brave.

      37. The feds say might makes right. Period. Anybody check the current demographics of the country you call the USA? Caucasoids only make up no more than 60%, if that. Less than 10 years and caucasoids will be just another minority. The commies and globalists won because you were afraid to be called names. In 1900 we made up 30% of the world population. Today we are less than 8% of world population. Extinction through assimilation.

      38. Typical of the modern generation is to neither know their constitutional rights, (due to not knowing the Constitution) nor understanding the difference between free speech and incitement to riot and insurrection, which is not protected under the Constitution.

      39. I believe we do not have a fundamental right to health care at someone else’s expense; the author(s) are correct in that sense… but we do have a right to conduct value for value relationships that do not impinge upon others’ fundamental rights. So, as long a the cell phone company and I have an in force agreement, no one has the right to take it away (government agency). The authors are wrong, we do have a right to our cell phone connection.

      40. This could be disasterous: blocking cell phones. What if some one had a hearet attack or other emergency and had no other source to call for help except their cell phone?

      41. BART police didn’t jam cell service, they simply turned off repeaters in tunnels and underground stations where normal signal doesn’t reach. It is illegal to jam service, but not illegal for a government agency (BART) to turn off services it provides free in the interest of public safety. A distinction with a difference.

      42. take your cell phone and stick it up your as

      43. incite people with misinformation? yeah, TPTB can’t have their favorite tactic used if it doesn’t advance society to their own ends. how bout telling people about the blatant misuse of power the people are being subjected to (that would be information)? LRADs, ketteling, and microwave guns for instance. plus lets not forget the NDAA and the bill that makes it a felony to be anywhere near the secret service regardless of your knowledge of that fact.

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