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Student Sues FBI For Planting GPS Tracker 586

GabriellaKat submits this snippet from Yahoo! news, writing "'Yasir Afifi, 20, says a mechanic doing an oil change on his car in October discovered the device stuck with magnets between his right rear wheel and exhaust. They weren't sure what it was, but Afifi had the mechanic remove it and a friend posted photos of it online to see whether anyone could identify it. Two days later, Afifi says, agents wearing bullet-proof vests pulled him over as he drove away from his apartment in San Jose, Calif., and demanded their property back.' Now he has decided to sue the FBI. This story was also covered last year when he found the tracking device."
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Student Sues FBI For Planting GPS Tracker

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  • $200 fine (Score:3, Informative)

    by airfoobar ( 1853132 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:06AM (#35378312)
    For the illegal wiretappings, they were fined were $200. How much will it be this time?
  • Way to go! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:07AM (#35378316)

    If we're going to take people's freedom away and treat them like criminals, then why the fuck does America exist?

    If we're going to act like some police state or other oppressive regimes, then America is dead.

    And if you really think we need this kind of monitoring to be safe, I'd like to point out that even the most monitored states around the World aren't any safer - if anything they're LESS safe because it allows for the abuse by the watchers.

    If the FBI gets away with this, I'll consider America and Her values to be completely dead as opposed to mostly dead because of the PATRIOT Act.

    • Re:Way to go! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:34AM (#35379058)

      If we're going to take people's freedom away and treat them like criminals, then why the fuck does America exist?

      ohh, oooh, call on me! I know the answer!

      "to enhance the power and profit-making of big business?"

      (did I get that right?)


    • Re:Way to go! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:40AM (#35379130)

      We're so friggin' afraid to die that we don't mind living in a golden cage. Even if it's just spray paint. Everyone's crying for more protection, more safety, no matter the cost. It's not just the whole police state thing running rampart. When was the last time you have seen kids play outside, climbing trees and skinning knees? Everything has to be "safe and sane", cotton-wrapped from cradle to grave. And that's what people want, it seems! That's what you get in a sue-happy environment, where people refuse to think for themselves and instead blame everything happening to them on everyone else. If you're stupid, someone else is to blame for your accidents. You used a rotating chair as a makeshift ladder and broke your leg? Sue the manufacturer, he didn't tell you that it's a STUPID idea.

      People seem to think that they are not responsible for anything, at any time. We're just far too happy to delegate every kind of responsibility to ... well, anyone! And here's someone who promises to keep us safe from terrrrrists? Great, here, have my freedom! I'm far too scared to die to worry about that petty little thing!

      9/11 was traumatic for the US. For the first time, in decades, if not centuries, the US were attacked by someone on their own home ground. And so suddenly too. Unprepared you get hit in your own home. It's about as traumatic as a sudden burglar breaking in and beating you up. Now multiply that by a few 100 million. This is how the US population felt after this event. And much like people who survive such a burglar situation, they start calling for more security. You can see alarm systems sales skyrocket when a burglary series runs rampart across town. But not with people who want to prepare and protect against it, it's usually people who HAVE already had a "visit" who are buying, despite the fact that the horse left the barn, it's not that they'd expect the burglar to return, it's simply a psychological reaction to it. It's this traumatic experience that leads to this behaviour.

      And the fact that you cannot protect from such attacks is no deterrent from trying either. It is impossible to make the US "secure". Are you kidding? Yes, you can monitor everything that gets in and out of the US, but how do you want to avoid people mixing up bombs? We're talking about some 200 million people, do you think NONE of them has the ability AND the willingness AND access to the materials to bomb something? The odds are slightly against you there.

      But, people, it's been a decade. It's time to shake it off. Yes, remember and never forget, but you have to live again. The US were the epitome of freedom, liberty and the ability to make your own way without interference from state or government, for almost all of its existence. People went there from countries that suppressed their strive for self-realization and happiness. This US of today is not anymore what we saw in it. I want my US back!

      Read your anthem, people. Read those last lines. "Land of the free. Home of the brave". It's time you act like it again!

      • More people die from automobile accidents than from terrorists. But you don't see everyone so scared that they'll slow down to the actual speed limit.

    • Re:Way to go! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yold ( 473518 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @11:46AM (#35379798)

      Do you know how the FBI has operated since its inception? Google the FBI and MLK Jr. , the FBI and communists, the FBI and 1960s radicals. I don't know why people don't realize this is business as usual.

      why the does America exist?

      For the same reason as always, to line the pockets of the richest 5% while subduing the people with fantastic lies about "Freedom". The easiest early example would be The Sedition Act of 1798, which effectively made anti-government speech treasonous. We are a nation of hypocrites; our leaders rule under the principle of doublethink, whereby "Freedom" enjoy supreme lip-service, but truly must it exist only to keep the masses docile and in servitude.

      American "Freedom" as you are taught in school is A LIE; it is pandering and idealistic. It ignores the fact that our founding fathers decreed that "All men shall be created equal" while holding slaves. It glances over the MANY instances of genocide of American Indians. You'll never read about the times that people have been imprisoned or worse for practicing freedom of speech. America is a great country, but you must understand that the common notion of a worsening state of affairs is a product of ignorance.

  • If they can't find it, it is clearly useless. Or am I missing something?

    • by llZENll ( 545605 )

      As usual you are missing something ;) My guess is it doesn't work to well when its, gasp, not powered on! After the discovery of the device the victim unplugged the one foot long battery pack from the GPS unit thereby disabling any tracking abilities.

  • In a free country (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:07AM (#35378322)

    This guy would succeed in suing the absolute shit out of them, and the agents responsible would be fired (all the way up the chain). The FBI has repeatedly spit on the cornerstone of our legal system which supposedly guarantees a man to be innocent before proven guilty. They have turned it around once again and forced this man to prove his innocence.

    Now let's see just how free this country really is.

    • Don't you know? This is the land of the free (unless you're suspected of something). Guilty until proven innocent by a jury of people that you have nothing in common with. Uh, I mean, peers.

      OTOH, he did make some comments about blowing up a mall. Not that he was planning to do so, but about how easy it would be. He probably had some other profiling flags, too.The thing with the FBI is, they don't really have to justify anything if they don't feel like it.

    • by Xacid ( 560407 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:51AM (#35378616) Journal

      To be the devil's advocate - gathering evidence IS the attempt of proving guilt.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:38AM (#35379104)

        To be the devil's advocate - gathering evidence IS the attempt of proving guilt.

        No... gathering evidence is the attempt to establish guilt.

        It is a well known fact that everyone is guilty of something. Especially due to the vast vague laws on the books. If an officer searches you enough they will be able to find some law you have broken, even if you are an upstanding citizen. There are a massive enough obscure laws on the books to do so.

        Hell, 95% of the population can be jailed on the streets at will for the so-called crime of "disorderly conduct". You ever take a quiet stroll in the park? Disorderly conduct!
        You ever take a walk in the woods? Disorderly conduct!
        You ever use the bushes outdoors as a bathroom? Disorderly conduct, public indecency, littering.

        We live in a country, where you have liberties. Even if you are guilty of something, the government is not allowed by the constitution to harass you or go on a fishing expedition to figure out what laws you have broken, obscure laws or not

      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:38AM (#35379108) Homepage

        Yes and infringing on your freedoms while gathering evidence is inevitable. To prevent abuse, though, law enforcement is traditionally required to obtain a warrant. This means they've gone in front of a judge, argued why infringing on this person's rights is so important and got the judge to agree. In practice, it is a rubber-stamp in many cases, but at least it is some form of a check and balance system. Recently, however, law enforcement has been whining that getting warrants are too hard and take too long and we'd all be safer if we'd just let them do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it. After all, like the old saying goes: Absolute power guarantees absolute safety doesn't corrupt at all. (That *is* the saying, right?)

  • Good for him (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kaptink ( 699820 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @09:25AM (#35378412) Homepage

    If it were me I would have called the bomb squad and made sure all the TV crews were there to see them pull the tracking device off. I think the government and friends have granted themselves far too many powers since 9/11 etc and all of which wouldnt make a damn difference had it all happen again. Its a convenient justification to make it easier for which ever department has the resposibilities to do something that could be a bit easier if they were able to spy on you, read your emails, listen to your calls, check your bank transactions, etc, etc and now track your every movements. None of which is going to stop a guy with a cash plane ticket and a box knife is it now? I think the balance between privacy and security has now long been broken and ever day it seems to be getting worse. Its only when people like this guy stand up and make a point that it shouldnt be happening that something might ever possibly change.

    • by bcmm ( 768152 )
      I'd love to see somebody do that, but in practise there would be a risk of the bomb squad flipping out and using a controlled explosion. Bye bye car, and bye bye all evidence to use against the feds.
      • Just "notice" it in the middle of big-city downtown, where a controlled explosion would also knock out a quarter million dollars of glass. Besides I was googling the numbers off the device and Utah has put out bids to purchase two of these mechanisms. It's pretty likely that these thingys aren't FBI-only and most bomb squads would very likely recognize them at once. Then they would remove it with much fanfare and theatrics and transport it for a controlled detonation in the FBI property room; maybe even sen

  • and left it at that.

    I mean, what are they going to do to you?

    Too bad you could not get it onto a plane. I wonder how much trouble you would get into taking it or trying to take it on checked luggage?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The question surrounding GPS tracking has been a topic for discussion for a few years now. Last year when this took place, I believe that a California court stated that it was equivalent to an officer tailing an individual, and a vehicle that was on public property could have the device attached to it without a warrant. According to the article, a Federal Appeals court over ruled this and claimed it unconstitutional.

    From the article:

  • Some balls.

    Subtlety is clearly their middle name, and also their first and last name. :P

  • Is a warrant needed to tail someone? Is a GPS device much different than tailing someone in a vehicle?
    • I don't believe a warrant is needed to tail someone, but the act of putting a tracker on the person's physical property is what is in contention.

      With a tracker, you are followed everywhere you go in the vehicle, but with actual man power, the agent could follow you in a store and observe first hand if your motives are suspicious or just a daily routine.

      One can hardly defend against an electronic accuser. Ie: if the tracker info is used against you in a court of law, it's a simple fact and there's no way t

  • Talk about gall.

    By the way, is it also OK to "attach" a tracker (trojan) to a computer system?

    And then when you're caught, demand "your property back"?

  • Law Student Analysis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thakandar2 ( 260848 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:42AM (#35379144)
    From the article: "The Obama administration asked the court to change its ruling, calling the decision "vague and unworkable" and arguing that investigators will lose access to a tool they now use "with great frequency." -This is not a reassuring trend. If the objection was that it was vague and unworkable, that'd be fine. But their objection seems to be that it disallows them from using the GPS without a warrant - which is not fine. Voting for change wasn't supposed to mean "Change my ideals back to what the previous people did."

    Also: ". . . the agents who showed up to collect the device were "hostile," threatening to charge Afifi if he didn't immediately cooperate and refusing his request to have a lawyer present" and earlier stated, the agents "demanded their property back." I might just be a first year law student, but if you leave your property in my car, and make no claims to it and abandon it, then it could be mine. Also, the agents only "pulled him over as he drove away from his apartment" probably to avoid the whole warrant issue of collecting it from his apartment. Yet, any time law enforcement shows up, it is my understanding that you don't have to give them any information besides the identify statutes require, like name and maybe ID if your state says so. So I'd sit in the parking lot, and not invite them into my home and tell them I don't want them to search my car without some kind of pretense. Also, I'd turn my smart phone recorder on since we were having the discussions in public.

    Perhaps they could have just followed him with a tail to get all the GPS type info, or put a drone over him. I don't think there's an expectation of privacy for the outside of your car, but if it was found in the engine compartment, that might be different. I don't like adding to the car with a device... that seems like some kind of alteration, or trespass to chattels (personal property). Government tort exemptions probably apply for this kind of thing, whether it's constitutional or not.

    I'm much more concerned with the adding a device to the personal property than I am the expectation of privacy claim. IF I wanted to follow someone all day, I could collect all the information about their whereabouts.
  • An interesting quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @10:55AM (#35379288)

    The federal appeals court in the Washington circuit where Afifi's case was filed ruled in August that the collection of GPS data amounts to a government "search" that required a warrant. The Obama administration asked the court to change its ruling, calling the decision "vague and unworkable" and arguing that investigators will lose access to a tool they now use "with great frequency."

    So the FBI admits they're doing a lot of GPS tracking without warrants.

  • Return property? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @11:56AM (#35379950)

    They demanded it back? So that's an admission that it's theirs. Idiot move #1. They need to write that sort of stuff off.

    The proper answer should be: "My attorney has it. He's having it analyzed by experts."

    Next time, have some fun. Stick it to a police car parked at the doughnut shop. Then, make an anonymous call to the cops and report a rumor that some gang members in a couple of black SUVs are looking to knock off a cop to make their rep in the neighborhood.

Air is water with holes in it.