Oklahoma Sheriff Accused Of Keeping Extensive Database On Citizensby Timothy Geigner
Sep. 24, 2014
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You may not have known this in all the fallout from the ongoing revelations about our intelligence services spying on our daily activities, but it turns out that keeping tabs on ordinary citizens isn't just for the alphabet agencies. Good, old fashioned, local police departments can do it, too. And apparently some do, based on this ACLU legal filing against one local sheriff in Oklahoma, who took part in building and using an extensive database on citizens' activities that was likely illegal and was never shared with prosecutors or defense attorneys.
The ACLU in Oklahoma sued Logan County Sheriff Jim Bauman in Logan County Court on Sept. 11, seeking records from the "Black Asphalt" database. Logan County is just north of Oklahoma City. Its seat is Guthrie. The system was created by Joe David, the founder of Guthrie-based Desert Snow LLC, the ACLU says. In a statement announcing the lawsuit, the ACLU claims it discovered Black Asphalt during an investigation of Desert Snow employees impersonating police officers in Caddo County in 2013, "as part of a scheme with the local district attorney to make traffic stops, seize cash and property from citizens, and funnel it into local coffers in exchange for a percentage of the profits."Now, schemes for bilking citizens of their property by local police to fill the public coffers are nothing new, but the use of an extensive database system built by a private company to track civilians certainly is. The key part in all this is that the officers that used the system to compare civilian activities and notes on investigations never disclosed any of this to prosecutors, defense attorneys, or the courts. In case you're wondering, yes that's an insane work-around of due process. The more terrifying part is that this whole thing isn't limited to one Oklahoma county.
"On information and belief, the Black Asphalt system, since its inception, has had up to 25,000 members throughout the United States and Canada." The information posted on Black Asphalt "routinely lead to the detention, arrest or prosecution" of its members, the ACLU says in the lawsuit. It says it "received no response of any kind" to its February request for disclosure and inspection of records.In fact, the ACLU made an in-person request for disclosure of the database at Sherrif Bauman's office, which was also denied. Oklahoma, mind you, has a relatively aggressive legal platform by which these requests are supposed to be honored, called the Open Records Act. It is under that law that the ACLU is seeking disclosure.
If you're a private citizen wondering if your local LEOs are keeping an undue eye on you, you should be rooting for the ACLU to win. If you aren't wondering about that, you probably should be.