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Careful What You Post, the FBI Has More of These 761

jamie writes "A comment posted to a website got its author's *friend's* car an unwanted aftermarket addon. The Orion Guardian ST820, a GPS tracking device, was attached to the underside of the car by the FBI. No warrant required. The bugged friend, a college student studying marketing, was apparently under suspicion because he's half-Egyptian. As Bruce Schneier says, 'If they're doing this to someone so tangentially connected to a vaguely bothersome post on an obscure blog, just how many of us have tracking devices on our cars right now ...' The ACLU is investigating." This follows up on our earlier mention of the same student, who turned the tracking device over to the FBI.
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Careful What You Post, the FBI Has More of These

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  • Operation: Fearstorm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:14PM (#33884332) Homepage Journal
    4chan / Anon should start a campaign called "operation fearstorm" in which local crimestoppers and FBI tip lines are flooded with anonymous terrorism and pedophile suspicions of random citizens, or perhaps the families of law enforcement, local politicians, and the clergy.

    Mainstream media coverage of the fiasco will show just how stupid and bust-desperate the Feds are. And, of course, the most dangerous are the informants and provocateurs [] working for the feds. They should be rounded up and beaten brutally.
  • by embolalia ( 1561119 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:16PM (#33884382)
    Anyone else tempted to try and drive a route that spells "I know you're watching" when seen on a map?
  • Legal tracking. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Timmmm ( 636430 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:19PM (#33884418)

    One interesting thing from TFA is that newer GPS trackers are installed under the bonnet, and powered by the car battery. I can sort of see how one might say you can track cars without a warrant using magnetic, battery powered GPS trackers (like the one in the article), but how on earth can breaking into the car not require a warrant?

  • Rules... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:20PM (#33884430)

    If the government has a warrant to track your vehicle with a GPS device, I'm fine with them tracking it.

    Some caveats.

    1) They should _not_ be allowed onto private property to install said devices. That's a slippery slope. If your property is not private, then what is? If I'm on my driveway, apparently it's fair game "because the UPS driver can walk on it". But what if you park in the yard because too many cars are in the driveway? What if you park around back? What if you park in a car port? What if it's in the garage but the door is open enough to get in? What if... No. Follow me and tag my car when it's in a public place, again, if you have a warrant to do so.

    2) If I find a device on my car and I don't know you put it there. It's mine, period. Now, if you tell me its there and that's its government property and I'm legally obligated to leave it there, fine. I can rent a car (I guess that's why they don't tell you). But you can't expect me to just inherently know that the device isn't mine when I had no idea you put it there without my knowledge. For all I know it's a part of the car right out of the factory.

    This BS with agents/contractors going onto private property installing devices and then threatening you when you find it... It has to stop.

  • Re:got spyware? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <digitalunity&yahoo,com> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:21PM (#33884444) Homepage

    Hell yes. I wouldn't give it back either.

    I would disassemble it and post it on youtube. Or try to hack it and see if I can come up with a neat use for it.

    Why give it back? If they put it on your car, do they still own it? I'd like to think not.

  • Given that the 7th and 9th Circuits have OK'd warrantless tracking, I am unsure how quickly the Supreme Court would grant cert on this issue. And given the current members of the Court, I might not like their decision.

  • Strange (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kellyb9 ( 954229 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:25PM (#33884492)
    I read a series of the attached articles. A seperate instance upon which the apparent ruling that allows this particular abuse of power said: "On two occasions, agents sneaked into his driveway before dawn to affix the tracking devices to the undercarriage of his Jeep." Can't you at the very least say that this constitutes trespassing or illegal search? I'm shocked that this doesn't violate constitutionally granted freedoms (privacy, illegal search, etc.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:25PM (#33884498)

    after you have parked it in Times Square
    and then tell them that you have found a blackbox with a red flashing light and an antenna clamped under your car, and see what happens
    you wouldnt, as an observant patriotic citizen want to take any chances would you ?
    let that happen a few times and the FBI responsible for causing the resulting clusterfuck will be spanked before they know whats hit them

  • Re:got spyware? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:27PM (#33884518) Homepage Journal
    They're going to bust you for destruction of federal property. You can argue that it was put on your car on your property, but I wouldn't expect to get very far. If a police car pulls into your driveway and parks there for 15 minutes while the cop runs down some suspect, you don't suddenly own the car.

    That said, the FBI should really put a sticker on the things that says something like "Property of the US Government, if found, call 1-800-XXX-XXXXX".
  • Re:Bzzzt. Wrong. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:43PM (#33884730)
    Thus explaining why the FBI took the time to question him about the blog post?
  • Re:Strange (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Americano ( 920576 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:49PM (#33884802)

    The problem is that to the court's thinking, there's no "expectation of privacy" in a driveway unless there's obvious effort that's been placed at excluding random passers-by: e.g., fencing, and a gate. The thinking being, "Well if you care about keeping your driveway private, you should have made an effort to make it so people can't access it."

    The dissenting opinion (interestingly from a fairly conservative judge appointed by Reagan) actually cited the fact that this creates an economic imbalance - poor people can't afford gated driveways & fencing, rich people can.

    A fairly thorough writeup can be found here []. Interesting to note that that article also talks about a DC court recently deciding that extended GPS tracking requires a warrant - there's no clear precedent, and so it's very likely that this will end up in one form or another before the Supreme Court.

  • Makes you wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:56PM (#33884906)
    will car mechanics be gagged by the FBI from telling customers they found an odd box or two that don't belong?

    BTW, this particular device is a few generations out of date; now the Great Protectors of Our Rights have much tinier Boxes of Freedom that are surreptitiously powered via the cars' battery cable.
  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:03PM (#33885008) Homepage Journal

        Ideally, if they install one, they'll put it somewhere that you'll never see it. There are plenty of wonderful places to hide objects on cars. Ask any mechanic if they've ever lost a tool in a car. If they say "no", they haven't been doing the job very long, or they're lying. Those are just the places that things can fall to.

        Most cars have plastic/rubber bumpers. Behind the bumper is some sort of material that will crush on impact. Some used hard plastic honeycomb pieces. Some use styrofoam. Those don't always fill all the space, which leaves nice gaps to hide things in.

        I had to change my turn signal housings about a year ago. They were cracked. To remove them, the electric raise headlights had to be removed, and some other plastic removed. Only then could I see that there was a space on each side of the front of the car large enough to put a shoebox.

        On a car with a grill, how many of you have looked behind the grill to see what may be lurking? I know most people don't. It gets warm there, but it also leaves a nice spot to leave something in plain sight.

        For the power wires, that's not really very hard either. Slip the wire into an existing loom, or put an oem-ish one in.

        I was helping a friend do some significant changes to the interior of his SUV. As we were pulling stuff out, we came across several boxes of unknown origin. I'm sure they were there since the truck was manufactured, but no one had seen them since. Who pulls the headliner, and all the interior trim parts out? Not too many people. We searched the part numbers, and found that they were indeed factory pieces, but they were for options that weren't included on this particular truck. Behind the radio and throughout the dash has many gaps that you'd never notice. I was installing GPS tracking devices for a fleet (perfectly legitimate, the owners and vehicle operators knew they were there). Most of them had spots that I could mount the oversized box in very nicely, and hide all the wiring away so you'd have a really tough time finding them. I could set up a private or commercial vehicle in about 15 minutes, but I was taking my time and doing everything right.

        But, there are plenty of mystery boxes that you simply don't know exist, or you don't know what they do. In 2005, 65% of new passenger vehicles had EDR (Event Data Recorders), which store the last few seconds before an event (i.e., crash). 2006 on, it was suppose to be 100%. I haven't heard too many people asking "What's this box do?". They just accept that it's a piece of the car. In reading up on it, some vehicles may become disabled if it's removed. If people aren't finding or questioning this standard equipment, would they ever notice an extra piece? Probably not unless you duct taped it to the windshield with a note that said "This is a government tracking device, do not remove under penalty of law"

        How well it's hidden directly relates to how long the person installing it believes they have, and how adept they are at getting around a security system. If you can disable the alarm and unlock the doors, in most driveways you'd have from 1am to 4am (climb inside, and work with the doors shut). Mounting it outside just adds visibility. Sure, you can put it on, but will a neighbor or passer by stop to find out why you're crawling around under the car in the middle of the night? Surely if a fed was doing it covertly, and the local police spotted him, it would ruin the covert part of the operation.

  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:08PM (#33885088) Homepage

    I need to point out that we actually don't know why the FBI is tracking this fellow. Every single reason anyone has given for the tracking has been pure speculation. In the original reddit post, the kid even said "we were high when we found it so we thought it was a bomb." So, for all we know, the FBI is tracking him related to a drug sting. There is no indication that blog posts or Muslim community connections had anything to do with it.

  • Think bigger (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:09PM (#33885106)

    Religious extremism is merely a tiny subset in the world of extremism. What all extremists have in common is that they employ an initiation of physical force (coercion, not persuasion) as a means to their end. Indeed, it isn't their ideology or motive that makes them evil; it is precisely the initiation of force (or threat thereof). It is the initiation of force itself that is extreme, and the acute observer will realize that the label "extremist" applies to anyone who resorts to coercion as a means to an end, including schoolyard bullies, thiefs, and (get ready for this) governments.

    Many people are fond of claiming that money is the "root of all evil". On the contrary, it is coercion which is the root of all evil, because coercion is the one absolute prerequisite of all forms of injustice.

  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:15PM (#33885174)

    I'd recommend you go look at the pictures of the device that have been posted. It will not be hard to recognize. And this is not a thing they can easily disguise, the biggest part of it is a battery. []

    There was a quote from an ex FBI guy in the gizmodo article. He was saying that normally they're much more well-hidden. They know you may go to the mechanic or whatever, and don't want to be found. He said something to the effect of: if they install it right, you won't find it.


  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by trum4n ( 982031 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:31PM (#33885456)
    best part about my electric ride. the EMF from the motor controller will kill anything that isnt shielded in about a week. if i want, i can make it spike and kill anything in 10 feet in about 5 seconds.
  • Re:got spyware? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:35PM (#33885532)

    I have seen two people in Austin misconstrue Castle Doctrine. The first was someone who shot someone who was entering a neighbor's house. The second was someone who tried to shoot at another driver due to road rage.

    Both people are facing heavy duty felony prison terms.

    To get a concealed weapons permit in Texas requires to take (and pass) classes and be able to at least hit a target which shows that you know which end the bullet comes out of. These classes include knowing that discharging a firearm can bring a lot of charges, even if it is plinking in the air for a new year's celebration. Shooting at a person will be an attempted murder charge, and an assault with a deadly weapon charge on the spot unless there are real special circumstances (self defense, defense of property).

    Don't assume Texas is a gun happy, lawless place. Yes, we have concealed carry laws and castle doctrine, but judges here will throw the book at anyone who does not follow the CHL laws to the letter. And yes, even the type of handgun is considered, as there is a CHL for a revolver, and a CHL for a semi-auto.

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:40PM (#33885612) Journal

    How can the GPS work under a car? I'd think with all that metal on top, the GPS signal would be pretty attenuated.

    Maybe if it was near the edge of the bottom of the car with an antenna that gets a sideview, even then I'm not sure it would see enough sats to get a fix.

  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by trum4n ( 982031 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:45PM (#33885690)
    entire cabin is shielded against all but the strongest. its actually really easy to decrease the EMF output, but it would lower efficiency. If it were a problem for me, id fix it, but it doesn't bother me at all. car cost me 2000USD to build, so i'm all smiles.
  • Re:got spyware? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by autocracy ( 192714 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:57PM (#33885906) Homepage

    While I haven't been able to Google it, I recall one instance where a homeowner shot two police officers who were in his garage. The court ruled in favor of the homeowner.

  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:59PM (#33885942) Journal

    Ideally, if they install one, they'll put it somewhere that you'll never see it. There are plenty of wonderful places to hide objects on cars. Ask any mechanic if they've ever lost a tool in a car. If they say "no", they haven't been doing the job very long, or they're lying. Those are just the places that things can fall to.

    Plenty. But a lot of them aren't so good for a tracking device which must get GPS input. Lots of wonderful places to lose hardware and tools under the engine and accessories will simply have no GPS reception, for instance. Similarly for most places in the passenger compartment unless it's a convertible; a metal roof is effective at blocking GPS signals. Under the bumper cover is a good choice for a battery powered device. It's often reachable (though not visible) from the outside, and the plastic doesn't attenuate GPS much. Under the dash among the instruments is another good spot, but accessible only from the inside. I'm sure there are others.

  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @03:25PM (#33886358)

    Most cars have plastic/rubber bumpers. Behind the bumper is some sort of material that will crush on impact. Some used hard plastic honeycomb pieces. Some use styrofoam. Those don't always fill all the space, which leaves nice gaps to hide things in.

    If you ever get into an accident, and find one installed in your bumper gap, you have a nice lawsuit against the US Government ready to go. That space is there for safety reasons, and is part of the bumper's crumple zone. Compromising it is directly endangering you.

  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @04:09PM (#33886950)

    Except the positive lead to the starter is only live when you're starting the car.
    Siphoning enough current off it in four or five seconds to run a GPS unit for a couple of hours would cause problems, especially in older vehicles and/or cold climates.

    Personally i'd probably go for the fuel pump power supply, although newer direct-inject vehicles with an HPFP may be more sensitive to voltage drop

    Better yet, any accessible line to a tail lamp (esp. the license plate bulbs) would be most excellent.

  • Re:get a lawsuit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @04:41PM (#33887422) Homepage Journal
    At the risk of Godwin-ing this thread, I'm concerned by the fact that although we simply aren't a Christian-dominated nation (although we're largely a nation of faith), both SIGs and politicians keep claiming we are, and that said group is a threat to our freedom and security. When you make these claims about a group, it's a set-up for blame when things go wrong, and an excuse to begin sanctions.
  • Re:got spyware? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr exploiter ( 1452969 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:39PM (#33889336)

    So you think that putting a bullet on the head of someone that is tampering with your car is needed for you not to be killed in an "accident"? I don't think that any judge would buy that. The reasonable option is calling the cops and having your car inspected.

  • Re:got spyware? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:50PM (#33889414) Journal

    You don't always have to fire a firearm for it to be effective protection. The answer is to call 911, point the rifle at them, and yell, "You are under aim. Put your hands up, palms forward. Slowly back away from the vehicle. The police are on their way."

    If they make any sudden movements while you have them at gunpoint, then you can probably assume they are armed and mean you immediate harm at that point.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle