What Evidence Did the Feds Retrieve from Pete Santilli and Deb Jordan’s Enterprise Rental Car?

onstar

IMAGE SOURCE: autoblog.com

By CHERI ROBERTS for Challenging the Rhetoric

We know very little about what evidence U.S. prosecutors will use against any of the [thus far] 27 defendants involved in the January, Malheur Wildlife Refuge armed takeover outside of Burns, Oregon; more widely known as the Oregon Standoff. All we’ve seen is a slew of publicly made social media posts; including photographs and YouTube videos, along with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Incident Report.

It is likely there is much more evidence we have not been privy too, and with seals on discovery, the chance of finding out much more before trial is slim. What we do know is co-defendant Peter Santilli had a rented a car, a green GMC Yukon SUV, in his name, for his trip to Burns. After his arrest, according to girlfriend, Deborah Jordan, the FBI had the Enterprise rental car company report the rental as stolen, although she admits she was not listed on the paperwork as a designated driver for the vehicle.

In a February 9 video published by Jordan, and in a local KOIN news interview, she claims the maneuver was a bullying tactic by federal authorities who are “playing dirty”, and feels as if she herself is being surveilled.

But, there could be much more to this than that. According to the KOIN article, Jordan also says the rental car company told her the FBI asked for the access code to its on-board navigational system. Lt. Colonel Shawn Ward, acting assistant chief of airport police, would not release the police report regarding the alleged “stolen” vehicle, saying the investigation was still very much active.

onstar2.jpg

IMAGE SOURCE: autoblog.com

There are strict rules about accessing OnStar, and other on-board computer systems by authorities. The telematics are not up for the taking to anyone asking for them, including the feds. A crime has to have already occurred, or be in the process of occurring, in order to get the warrants necessary to gain access to the information; as was the case with the on-board data retrieved from LaVoy Finicums pickup truck.

lavoy finicum suv passenger side

IMAGE SOURCE: Deschutes County Sheriff Incident Report

If the FBI, in fact, had Enterprise report Santilli’s rented SUV as “stolen”, that would have laid the groundwork that a crime had already occurred, or was in the process of being committed, therefor potentially legally opening the door to allowing government access to Santilli and Jordan’s OnStar data. You can read OnStar’s privacy statement HERE, which includes,

We do not monitor or otherwise track the location of OnStar-equipped cars, unless required to by a valid court order in criminal procedures or under exigent circumstances. Additionally, to prevent the possibility of abuse, we require police involvement for Stolen Vehicle Assistance and missing person requests.

how onstar works

IIMAGE SOURCE: thecelebritypix.com

In an article on the topic of on-board telematics, Automotive News says,

Information gathered by vehicle telematics systems such as General Motors’ OnStar, Ford’s Sync, BMW ConnectedDrive and others is garnering increased attention from lawyers who see the data as a puzzle piece in building court cases … The privacy terms for ConnectedDrive’s BMW Assist component says it may ‘collect and retain an electronic or other record’ of a person’s location or direction of travel at a given time — providing another potential legal tool for lawyers to go along with cellphone records, vehicle black boxes and even airbag modules … OnStar said it doesn’t ‘share data with law enforcement absent a court order unless it is necessary to protect the safety of its customers or others.’ OnStar does provide data to police in cases of stolen cars and can cut off a car’s power.

Family Now article claims,

OnStar can also switch on the car’s microphone and record conversations inside the car between passengers. Since OnStar is also used for hands-free calling, privacy advocates worry that OnStar can eavesdrop and record phone conversations.

That is only partially true. According to OnStar,

Our advisors cannot listen to anything going on in your vehicle without you knowing it.  An advisor can only hear sounds from your vehicle if you call an OnStar advisor or an OnStar advisor calls in to your vehicle.  If an OnStar advisor calls in to your vehicle, you’ll know because:

  • A light will flash;
  • You’ll hear a ring; and;
  • The radio will mute.

In addition, calls through the OnStar system are normally audible through the stereo speakers and vehicles that have text display capabilities will indicate that a call is occurring.  On top of that, OnStar requires its advisors to announce their presence immediately upon establishing a call into your vehicle.

We designed these measures so that our advisors cannot override them.

Does OnStar keep recordings of my interactions with OnStar advisors?

Yes. We may record and monitor all interactions between us (including interactions when you are in your vehicle) in order to maintain or improve the quality of our Services or for training purposes.

OnStar advisors may also remain on the line if, during a request for services, we conference in a third party like an emergency service provider or the police. These parties may also separately record and/or monitor the interaction. We may also review your interactions with OnStar’s automated Services for training and/or quality improvement purposes.

In the article, OnStar, Rental Vehicles and the 4th Amendment, using precedent, the writer points out how fourth amendment infringement is bypassed,

As I noted in that post, the court in that case – an Ohio case – held that the 4th Amendment wasn’t implicated because the monitoring in that case was done by an OnStar employee – a private citizen – which meant the 4th Amendment wasn’t implicated by the monitoring. As I’ve explained in other posts, the 4th Amendment only protects you from searches and seizures conducted by agents of the state, i.e., by law enforcement.

In a 2003 New York Times article about a case brought to United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco,

People with sophisticated safety and communications systems in their cars may be getting an unwanted feature. An appeals court decision last month revealed that the government may be able to convert some of the systems into roaming in-car wiretaps.The decision, by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, arose from a criminal investigation in Nevada. An unidentified company challenged a series of court orders requiring it to create a roving bug for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The appeals court overturned the orders, but its reasoning suggested that the issue will recur.

The article goes on to add,

The phone has a speaker and microphone, and it turns out that the microphone may be activated surreptitiously, allowing government agents to listen in on conversations in the car.

In Santilli’s case, he signed the rental car agreement. It wouldn’t even matter if he’d opted out of the service because, in 2011, OnStar again took heat when they announced they would continue to mine data from drivers of OnStar vehicles, whether or not a person pays for it, or even, have opted out of the OnStar service.

Did the FBI have Enterprise report Santilli’s rental as stolen in order to clear the way for evidence gathering? If so, what evidence have they been able to retrieve? Are they allowed to retrieve everything available from the time the SUV was first rented, or does the info they would be allowed to legally access begin at the date of the car being reported as stolen?

Was OnStar’s on-board recording device activated at any time? If so, did it record conversations between Santilli and Jordan from the beginning? What about that of others, like Maureen Peltier aka SSG Moe, Kenny aka Orange Hat man, or even Santilli’s III%’er security detail or anyone else that rode in the rented SUV? What information could there have been available to the feds pre and post Santilli arrest?

I guess we won’t know until the trial, but it seems clear, the only reason the FBI would encourage Enterprise to initiate a stolen vehicle report would be to assure them legal access to whatever information can be gleaned from the device.

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11 responses to “What Evidence Did the Feds Retrieve from Pete Santilli and Deb Jordan’s Enterprise Rental Car?

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  3. What do I think? Onstar is lying! Even a speaker, when not in use, can be used as a microphone. There is no reason to think that the Gov’t would not have used any technology available to them, and this one is available, overtly or covertly.

    Liked by 1 person

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