State rep’s rail-car warning echoes in DC

State Rep. Shawn Dooley acknowledged last month that some might think he had a screw loose for sounding a warning over the cybersecurity risks posed by the MBTA contracting with a Chinese rail car maker to deliver 400 new Orange and Red line subway cars.

The Norfolk Republican said he was concerned that the contract with the state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corp., or CRRC, could expose the T to sabotage — everything from spyware that captures information from riders’ smartphones to an ability for foreign players to shutdown the system or cause a collision.

Dooley said CRRC’s contract was “a ruse and nothing more than what a powerful and well-funded espionage actor does.” He said he plans to file legislation this month that would ban future such contracts.

“I’d rather say something and be wrong than not say something and be proven right,” Dooley told CommonWealth last month. He explained that his concern was triggered by what he learned recently from sitting in on a cybersecurity class at the US Naval Academy, where his daughter is a student. “Prove to me than I’m a nut and happily I’ll go away.”

Rather than being shown to be a nut, Dooley is undoubtedly taking some satisfaction this morning in the fact that the Washington Post ran out an 1,800-word front-page story today that reports on the very concerns he has raised.

The story focuses on an upcoming contract Washington’s Metro subway system plans to award for new subway cars, a deal worth more than $1 billion that CRRC appears to be well-positioned to win.

“Congress, the Pentagon, and industry experts have taken the warnings seriously, and now Metro will do the same,” the paper says of espionage concerns related to the Chinese company.

The Post says the DC Metro has revised its bid specifications in order to add more security safeguards.

“We don’t want to get trapped into a xenophobic conversation . . . but we also don’t want to be naive,” Robert Puentes, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington-based think tank, told the paper.

Proposals are pending in Washington in both the House and Senate to impose a one-year moratorium on the purchase of any Chinese-made buses or rail cars using federal funds. Such a move would, however, drive up costs to local transit systems. CRRC has been able to significantly underbid other firms, something critics call an unfair advantage it enjoys as a result of state subsidies.

The Post says CRRC’s foothold in the US market started with the 2014 contract it won with the MBTA. Since then, it has landed contracts for new rail cars with transit systems in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

All four systems say they have safeguards in place against the security concerns being raised. The MBTA said last month in response to Dooley’s warnings that no software components in its new rail cars will be manufactured in China and that all equipment would be checked against standards developed by the US Defense Department.

Andrew Grotto, a former senior director for cybersecurity policy on the National Security Council, told the Post the security measures adopted by the T and the three other US transit agencies were “appropriate,” but he raised questions about their implementation.

“Who is responsible and held accountable for seeing these results through? How will monitoring and auditing work?” Grotto said.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

A big push for revamping the state’s education formula kicks off on Wednesday at the State House. (South Coast Today)

A Globe editorial says some more fixes are needed for the state’s marijuana law, including addressing driving while stoned and laws governing pot use and employment.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A city-commissioned report criticized the Boston Fire Department’s atmosphere for women firefighters, saying “locker room talk” was pervasive in the department. (Boston Globe)

Brighton neighbors and Boston College officials aren’t thrilled with idea of a retail marijuana shop taking over the current site of dive bar Mary Ann’s. (Boston Globe)

Elected and appointed Weymouth officials, including the mayor, may see their first pay raise in 14 years. (Patriot Ledger)

Joan Vennochi slams state officials and Arlington town officials who arranged for the installation of spikes under a Route 2 overpass to prevent homeless people from sleeping there. (The “hostile architecture” was removed this week after a Globe story about it.) (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The partial government shutdown is beginning to ripple through the economy, affecting everything from the processing of mortgage applications to public companies’ ability to get approval to raise capital. (New York Times) The government shutdown is starting to affect the timetable of Vineyard Wind, the offshore wind farm. (South Coast Today)

The US Supreme Court declined to hear ExxonMobil’s case challenging Attorney General Maura Healey’s investigation of whether it covered up knowledge of its impact on climate change. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia’s chief of staff, Gen Andrade, has stepped down in order to serve as campaign manager for his effort to prevail in a March 12 recall election. (Herald News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The six-month lockout at National Grid finally ends, as the steelworkers ratify a new contract that gives the utility what it wanted (albeit with some twists) and gives the union a very lucrative deal. (CommonWealth)

The Globe uses emails and other documents obtained through a public records request to reconstruct the day-and-half-long charm offensive local leaders went on for a group of visiting Amazon officials weighing the company’s HQ2 decision.

Doug Stephan, who owns a farm that is one of the last remaining open spaces in Framingham, is hoping marijuana cultivation can keep the land free from development. (MetroWest Daily News)

WeWork is rebranding as The We Company with three major divisions — WeWork, WeLive, and WeGrow. (Wired)

EDUCATION

UMass Amherst has been on a sharp climb up in university rankings under the leadership of its soft-spoken, but driven, chancellor, Kumble Subbaswamy. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Steve Poftak outlines his priorities as the new general manager of the T, and a key area of focus is keeping the agency’s ambition $8 billion capital spending plan on schedule. Poftak was tight-lipped about his hiring, but he quipped that he is more interactive than Bill Belichick. (CommonWealth) WGBH has more on the $8 billion spending plan.Some big infrastructure spending on the T may require service disruptions. (Boston Globe)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants to increase the per-ride fee charged to Uber and Lyft. (Boston Globe)

T notes: The MBTA didn’t need to temporarily discontinue its $10 weekend commuter rail fare….A member of the control board is skeptical that the T’s new parking fees are working…Are new commuter rail coaches in the works? (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Actor Kevin Spacey entered a plea of not guilty to a count of indecent assault and battery in a Nantucket courtroom. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Joe Battenfeld says television networks agreed to show President Trump’s prime time address tonight on the government shutdown and border wall because they know he makes for good TV no matter what he says. (Boston Herald) Vox’s Matthew Yglesias says networks denied live coverage to President Obama for a speech on immigration policy in 2004 on grounds that it was “overtly political.”

The Boston Globe’s bid for decades of state birth and marriage records under the public records law goes before the Supreme Judicial Court this week. (MassLive)