ERAD on hold in Oklahoma… for now

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin put a temporary hold on the use of the ERAD system by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

KFOR news reports:

On Friday, Gov. Fallin directed her Cabinet secretary of safety and security to delay the use of the devices.

“The Department of Public Safety needs to formulate a clear policy for using this new technology,” said Fallin. “It can be a viable tool for law enforcement only if authorities are able to ensure Oklahoma motorists and others driving through our state that it will be used appropriately.”

I thought this announcement might be coming since several groups opposed the current use of these devices by the OHP.

While this might not be a clear victory, it at least will slow the process and allow the people to have a better look at what Oklahoma law enforcement is doing.

Groups ask Oklahoma Governor to rein in the Oklahoma Highway Patrol

The ERAD credit / debit card reading system being tested by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is coming under more scrutiny. A group of 7 lawmakers and organizations have sent a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin asking her to issue an executive order to stop the Oklahoma Highway Patrol from further use of the ERAD system until the legislature can address the issue.

According to the Tulsa World, the letter’s signatories include:

… Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City; Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater; the ACLU of Oklahoma; the Oklahoma Policy Institute; the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs; the NAACP of Oklahoma City; and the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association.

Of particular note is the fact that the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association signed on to the letter. Is a deeply conservative state like Oklahoma, they are more likely to be able to sway Governor Mary Fallin’s decision.

The letter states such things as:

“The use of these devices’ full capabilities, unless done with the authorization of the card owner, is unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge,” the letter says. “Moreover, it is illegal.”

And also notes that:

In addition, the Department of Public Safety significantly overpaid the company for ERAD’s software and services, the letter alleges.

While I would contend that anything paid was too much considering the questionable legality of such devices as well as the complete lack of oversight against misuse.

Politics truly does create strange bedfellows.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s talking point is indistinguishable from a lie

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) has been pushing the talking point that they can’t get access to your personal banking account or credit card account through the use of their renegade asset forfeiture program called ERAD. They further imply that the people who are talking about how the OHP might have been able to take your money were spouting propaganda, one assumes, in an attempt to discredit the ERAD program.

I, along with most people who gave a detailed accounting of how the program worked, tended to take the OHP at their word that they couldn’t gain access to your bank or credit card account; they could only gain access to the money stored on the prepaid credit/debit network card. The ACLU of Oklahoma points out that, while technically true, it is only because the company that provided the ERAD system couldn’t provide that information for them. The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) tried to get this access, but the company that provided the system informed them that it would be illegal without a court order.

The Oklahoma ACLU reports:

However, buried deep in the 199-page contract, a section shows that DPS officials explicitly asked the ERAD Group, a Ft. Worth, Texas, company to provide a means of accessing individual “banking information (account number, routing number)” and for the ability to freeze or seize the money in the account.

I don’t know about you, but this certainly doesn’t fill me with confidence that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol isn’t trying to push for totalitarian control over anyone that happens to pass through this state, not to mention the residents that make their home here.

Fortunately, it this seems to be such an egregious program that it isn’t a partisan issue.

Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) said:

Several state lawmakers have called on DPS to stop using the card readers. In a media statement, state Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, likened the use of the system to government robbery.

“This is deplorable,” Williams said. “The State of Oklahoma is allowing the OHP to swipe money from a card even if the trooper has no solid proof that the money in the card holder’s account was acquired illegally. The government is robbing its people.”

And Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City)  said:

State Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said the card reader program was a dangerous, unconstitutional tool. Loveless said the fact that DPS officials initially sought access to banking information shows the program was just another method to take money.

“We’ve seen this time and time again,” Loveless said. “Now we see they were trying to get that type of information. This shows this isn’t about identity theft, drugs, or crime or ISIS, it’s just another method to take innocent people’s property.”

Hopefully this disastrous situation will gain enough attention from the Oklahoma people that it can be stopped before it becomes truly embedded in the culture of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Mr. Brady Henerson of the Oklahoma ACLU said:

Brady Henderson, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said Thompson and others weren’t telling the whole story about the ERAD contract.

“The only reason they didn’t get access to personal banking information was that the company told them ‘no,’” Henderson said.

It is too dangerous to leave such technology in the hands of people who have to be told by a company that they aren’t allowed to break the law.

The card reader evasions by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol

The public, as well as some of the legislature, seems to be trying to grasp the latest asset forfeiture plan that the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) has put in place. At the center of the controversy is several portable debit card readers that have been acquired by the OHP. The OHP plans to use the card readers to see how much money you have on your debit card and take it from you — without a judge’s order, trial, or any other due process — if you seem like you are a suspicious person.

So, how can you tell a suspicious person? By looking at them, I guess. Granted, there are other “official” ways of profiling a person to decide whether they are suspicious, but they all come down to what the OHP officer decides is suspicious. If that simple fact alone doesn’t scare you, then you have indeed lived a charmed life.

So what does the OHP have to say about this? News 9 reports:

“The thing is we’re not stopping somebody and grabbing a 25-dollar Walgreens card and running it,” said Lt. John Vincent Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “There’s a reason for us to check what’s on the card.”

Troopers say often drug couriers will use the prepaid cards instead of carrying cash.

“That’s when we’re going to be able to use the ERAD [Electronic Recovery and Access Devices aka debit card reader QH] system to check those cards to see what is on them. And if you can prove that you have a reason to have those cards there won’t be any charges,” said Vincent.

Mr. Vincent seems to be trying to conflate the Walgreens card that you might be carrying with the debit card that you get paid with. The Walgreens card belongs to a type of card called a closed-loop card that can only be used at the store (or stores) where the card was purchased. In other words, it is what is commonly referred to as a gift card.

The ERAD debit card reader works with open-loop cards. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defines open-loop cards as follows:

What is an open-loop prepaid card?

An open-loop prepaid card is a card with a network logo on it (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover) that can be used at any location that accepts that brand.

That’s right. Any “credit card” that you have in your wallet that has a network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover) logo on it can be read, and have all if the money on it confiscated by the OHP for no other reason that they don’t like the way that you look.

The OHP claims that the ERAD debit card readers won’t work on any card that isn’t prepaid. Even if we take them at their word on that point, that still leaves a population vulnerable to any prejudices that might have slipped through the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s training academy as well as any of the other biases that exist in the general population.

Considering that most of the people I know can’t tell the difference between a Muslim and a Sikh, that doesn’t fill me with confidence.