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FBI caught surveiling American citizen, demand tracking device back.

Witch_Hunter_84Witch_Hunter_84 Registered User regular
edited October 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
Well it seems that the FBI got caught red-handed [URL="Read More http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/10/fbi-tracking-device/#ixzz11kSz5Rrc"]spying on a U.S. Arab-American citizen[/URL].
Afifi, a business marketing student at Mission College in Santa Clara, discovered the device last Sunday when he took his car to a local garage for an oil change. When a mechanic at Ali’s Auto Care raised his Ford Lincoln LS on hydraulic lifts, Afifi saw a wire sticking out near the right rear wheel and exhaust. Garage owner Mazher Khan confirmed for Wired.com that he also saw it. A closer inspection showed it connected to a battery pack and transmitter, which were attached to the car with a magnet. Khan asked Afifi if he wanted the device removed and when Afifi said yes, Khan pulled it easily from the car’s chassis.

After he identified the device by posting pictures of it on the internet with the question "what is this", it was identified as a tracking device made by a company that sells such devices exclusively to law enforcement. He was later confronted outside his house by FBI agents and police officers, questioned, and was asked for the device back. I say 'asked for' in only the loosest terms because they also added "We’re going to make this much more difficult for you if you don’t cooperate" (It is expensive).

Apperently attatching the device is legal though.
in the wake of a recent ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saying it’s legal for law enforcement to secretly place a tracking device on a suspect’s car without getting a warrant, even if the car is parked in a private driveway.

Now I'm not too sure on the exact legalities of this situation, but isn't there some sort of probable cause that the FBI needs to establish before just throwing a GPS device into someone's car, violating their civil liberties somewhat to do so? Or is the suspect here just brown enough for the FBI to go "National Security" and everything's justified? I'm kind of leaning towards violation of civil liberties here, but the subject is just so murky nowadays it's almost impossible to be sure. Hella embarrassing for the FBI I must say if their tracking equipment can be found while getting your brakes checked.

Witch_Hunter_84 on
If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten in your presence.
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Posts

  • UnknownSaintUnknownSaint Registered User
    edited October 2010
    I'm not sure this one is a very big deal for a few reasons. Not only is it pretty much right up the FBI's alley, but we simply don't know enough details of the situation to ascertain whether or not this is something we should be outraged about. For all we (the public) know the FBI has plenty of probable cause and a significant case built up against this guy already. Law enforcement profiles, law enforcement pushes some ethical limitations when it comes to surveillance, law enforcement is not always polite; this is pretty tame stuff, though definitely amusing.

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    For all we (the public) know the FBI has plenty of probable cause and a significant case built up against this guy already.

    If they had a significant case then they could have gotten a warrant. There is absolutely no reason to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt here.

    As far as I understand, this is currently a legal grey area: the justification for this sort of monitoring is that the places you drive are all public and that hence you have no expectation of privacy vis a vie tracking where your car goes. But I think I remember reading something in the times about how this rationale was not yet firmly established either way, and was going to be on the SCOTUS docket soon (or something to that effect).

  • EchoEcho staring is caring Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    MrMister wrote: »
    But I think I remember reading something in the times about how this rationale was not yet firmly established either way, and was going to be on the SCOTUS docket soon (or something to that effect).

    Wasn't there some very grey-area case where a car was out on the open in front of the garage, but on private property that got a tracker on it? (As in someone got caught placing the tracker while the car was on private property.)

  • CangoFettCangoFett Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Im usually pretty big on personal privacy, not being tracked by the government, etc. However, this does seem slightly gray.

    I mean, how is this any different than a cop doing a stakeout, and following the guy as he drives around town? You certainly dont need a warrant for that, as the dude is just driving around, you arent impeding on his privacy as the town is a public place. Aside from maybe a HUGE piece of private property, hes not going to go out of eyesight from the public roads (barring garages/parking etc).

    This is basically a more efficient way of tracking using less manpower and more open to less hearsay.



    However, if it turns out the FBI is still doing the whole, 'Herp Derp, related to a minority leader, better track him,' thing, then thats pretty messed up too.


    On the other hand, tracking devices are pretty heavy things. Watching someone that long (a reddit comment said the batteries can last for weeks) is excessive, and theres realistically no time sensitivity to it, a warrant should be required. The problem is, where do you draw a line. A warrant for any GPS tracking? A warrant for just following the guy in general? Maybe if you follow him for X amount of time? What if you follow him for X-1 day?

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    CangoFett wrote: »
    I mean, how is this any different than a cop doing a stakeout, and following the guy as he drives around town? You certainly dont need a warrant for that, as the dude is just driving around, you arent impeding on his privacy as the town is a public place.

    The privacy rationale is something like: a complete record of a person's movements over a period of weeks or even months gives an extremely intimate portrait of their life, of the sort that's normally only available to a spouse or very close friend (if even that). I tend to agree with this line of thought. I think that you still enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy even in 'public' spaces: in particular, you still enjoy the expectation that the only people that might happen to be watching you are random strangers, and certainly that no one is systematically following you and cataloging your every move. At the least, you should be able to enjoy this reasonable expectation.

    I prefer a concept of privacy more expansive than just "what literally occurs within the walls of your home." Even then we have recent rulings on new technology undermining that--police can thermally scan your home without your consent and if they see heat sources they can go on to raid you for growing pot. Really, I worry that new technology is eroding traditional privacy rights by making it possible to monitor people in ways that are technically 'public' (putting a GPS on their car, sitting outside their house with a thermal imager) but which nonetheless breach traditional and, more importantly, reasonable expectations.

  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    CangoFett wrote: »
    This is basically a more efficient way of tracking using less manpower and more open to less hearsay.

    That's kind of the problem, it makes it too easy. With a computer doing the tracking, they could track every single car and truck in the country, and once they can, it makes it harder to stop them from actually doing it. Just team up with those pols who want every car tracked so it can be given a mileage tax or something and there you go. And since people in the modern world are pretty much always within a kilometer of their car, if not just a few hundred feet, it's basically a way put trackers on people.

  • zeenyzeeny Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    CangoFett wrote: »
    Im usually pretty big on personal privacy, not being tracked by the government, etc. However, this does seem slightly gray.

    I mean, how is this any different than a cop doing a stakeout, and following the guy as he drives around town? You certainly dont need a warrant for that, as the dude is just driving around, you arent impeding on his privacy as the town is a public place. Aside from maybe a HUGE piece of private property, hes not going to go out of eyesight from the public roads (barring garages/parking etc).

    Uuuh, why would you believe that prolonged human surveillance without court order would be legal?

    edit:
    Even then we have recent rulings on new technology undermining that--police can thermally scan your home without your consent and if they see heat sources they can go on to raid you for growing pot.

    Huh? Scotus ruled the opposite.
    Edit2: Edited a word in....

  • L|amaL|ama Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    It's more like a police officer sitting in your garden during a stakeout or hiding himself in your boot. Sort of.

  • OremLKOremLK Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Scooter wrote: »
    And since people in the modern world are pretty much always within a kilometer of their car, if not just a few hundred feet, it's basically a way put trackers on people.

    Just a note--this is true for a great many people in the US, and particularly true for a lot of cities (including mine), but in many other cities public transport is common and people aren't necessarily anywhere near their vehicle.

    I guess that is picking nits though, I can see what you mean, depending on the situation.

    currently playing LoL: Polymath
    a fading melody - my indie platformer for the xbox 360
  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    zeeny wrote: »
    MrMister wrote:
    Even then we have recent rulings on new technology undermining that--police can thermally scan your home without your consent and if they see heat sources they can go on to raid you for growing pot.

    Huh? Scotus ruled the opposite.

    Well, shit, I guess I got my facts wrong.

    :oops:

  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Scalia actually wrote that opinion.

  • zeenyzeeny Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    MrMister wrote: »
    zeeny wrote: »
    MrMister wrote:
    Even then we have recent rulings on new technology undermining that--police can thermally scan your home without your consent and if they see heat sources they can go on to raid you for growing pot.

    Huh? Scotus ruled the opposite.

    Well, shit, I guess I got my facts wrong.

    :oops:

    It was the one time Scalia got something right! Don't take it away from him!

    Edit: meh, beaten.

  • EchoEcho staring is caring Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    Scooter wrote: »
    And since people in the modern world are pretty much always within a kilometer of their car, if not just a few hundred feet, it's basically a way put trackers on people.

    Now think for a minute about how far people go from their cell phones. You don't need any extra devices to track those.

  • CouscousCouscous Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I still manage to disagree with Scalia's opinion there.

  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    They do at least need warrants to get info from your phone company though, right?

    Right? :(

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    zeeny wrote: »
    It was the one time Scalia got something right! Don't take it away from him!

    Edit: meh, beaten.

    I remember reading about the case, but somehow I got it in my head that they ruled the opposite way.

  • EchoEcho staring is caring Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    Scooter wrote: »
    They do at least need warrants to get info from your phone company though, right?

    Right? :(

    The Data Retention Act in the EU wants to make it mandatory for phone companies to store location data, call/SMS information (sender/receiver number, timestamp, not actual content) for a minimum of six months.

    edit: the specifics.
    On 15 March 2006 the European Union formally adopted Directive 2006/24/EC, on "the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC".[1][2] The Directive requires Member States to ensure that communications providers must retain, for a period of between 6 months and 2 years, necessary data as specified in the Directive

    to trace and identify the source of a communication;
    to trace and identify the destination of a communication;
    to identify the date, time and duration of a communication;
    to identify the type of communication;
    to identify the communication device;
    to identify the location of mobile communication equipment.

    The data is required to be available to competent national authorities in specific cases, "for the purpose of the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime, as defined by each Member State in its national law".

  • langfor6langfor6 Registered User
    edited October 2010
    I would throw the device into a lake if this happened to me, and probably be brought up on charges for it.

  • Witch_Hunter_84Witch_Hunter_84 Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I am actually wondering now why the FBI felt they needed to continue to keep tabs on the guy after they talked to his lawyer and told his the lawyer that "everything was fine". I mean they told him the same thing after they forced him to give back the device also, but chances are they might just be trying to half-assedly throw the guy off their trail again. Although it would be hard to do so after this incident.

    It seems to me that the law is purposefully grey in these circumstances probably because it affords law enforcement to bend civil liberties to almost a breaking point. It allows law enforcement to mildly exceed its athority legally because the law is vague, and if they succeed in nailing a bad guy with these methods it's championing justice, if they fail though it's an overreaching of their authority. Likewise I wonder if the justice department puts pressure on judges to keep the laws vague in these instances so they can run with this as long as humanbly possible?

    If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten in your presence.
  • zeenyzeeny Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couscous wrote: »
    I still manage to disagree with Scalia's opinion there.

    Probably doesn't even matter he tried to sneak in a phrase for future use. With Stevens off the court the 4th amendment would be death before too long.

  • EchoEcho staring is caring Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    It allows law enforcement to mildly exceed its athority legally because the law is vague, and if they succeed in nailing a bad guy with these methods it's championing justice, if they fail though it's an overreaching of their authority.

    "We overreached our authority, but the law is grey in this area. We'll ensure that safeguards are put in place!"

    As it usually goes.

  • zeenyzeeny Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Scooter wrote: »
    They do at least need warrants to get info from your phone company though, right?

    Right? :(

    Need? No. Phone companies can cooperate as a demonstration of good will.

  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    langfor6 wrote: »
    I would throw the device into a lake if this happened to me, and probably be brought up on charges for it.

    Assuming they're not bolted on or something, I'd just stick it on the car next to me at the time. Should add some fun to the case when it turns out the FBI spent a few weeks tracking someone they didn't even mean to.

  • EchoEcho staring is caring Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    zeeny wrote: »
    Need? No. Phone companies can cooperate as a demonstration of good will.

    Here in Sweden they do tend to want a warrant for actual criminal investigations, since privacy and integrity is big here what with the Pirate Party and stuff.

    They do go "oh shit, here you go" if the police asks for help when looking for a missing person though.

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    zeeny wrote: »
    Scooter wrote: »
    They do at least need warrants to get info from your phone company though, right?

    Right? :(

    Need? No. Phone companies can cooperate as a demonstration of good will.

    Let's all do the telecoms immunity dance!

    rock out

  • ElitistbElitistb Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I assume there is some legal reason the guy couldn't put a tracking device in the FBI's tracking device?

    steam_sig.png
  • Just_Bri_ThanksJust_Bri_Thanks Seething with rage from a handbasket.Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2010
    On that note: Flip it around. If a private citizen started putting tracking devices on the cars of public servants, the government would flip its lid.

    Some days I just want to smack people with a rolled up newspaper. Or a phone book.
    A folding chair is looking like an attractive option right now too...
  • CangoFettCangoFett Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    On that note: Flip it around. If a private citizen started putting tracking devices on the cars of public servants, the government would flip its lid.

    Well of course, that just reaks of terrorism.

    Its different when the government is doing it to protect us.



    Spoiler:

  • twotimesadingotwotimesadingo Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Scooter wrote: »
    CangoFett wrote: »
    This is basically a more efficient way of tracking using less manpower and more open to less hearsay.

    That's kind of the problem, it makes it too easy. With a computer doing the tracking, they could track every single car and truck in the country, and once they can, it makes it harder to stop them from actually doing it. Just team up with those pols who want every car tracked so it can be given a mileage tax or something and there you go. And since people in the modern world are pretty much always within a kilometer of their car, if not just a few hundred feet, it's basically a way put trackers on people.


    I see we've reached the tin-foil hat-wearing crowd...

    MrMister wrote: »
    CangoFett wrote: »
    I mean, how is this any different than a cop doing a stakeout, and following the guy as he drives around town? You certainly dont need a warrant for that, as the dude is just driving around, you arent impeding on his privacy as the town is a public place.

    The privacy rationale is something like: a complete record of a person's movements over a period of weeks or even months gives an extremely intimate portrait of their life, of the sort that's normally only available to a spouse or very close friend (if even that). I tend to agree with this line of thought. I think that you still enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy even in 'public' spaces: in particular, you still enjoy the expectation that the only people that might happen to be watching you are random strangers, and certainly that no one is systematically following you and cataloging your every move. At the least, you should be able to enjoy this reasonable expectation.

    I prefer a concept of privacy more expansive than just "what literally occurs within the walls of your home." Even then we have recent rulings on new technology undermining that--police can thermally scan your home without your consent and if they see heat sources they can go on to raid you for growing pot. Really, I worry that new technology is eroding traditional privacy rights by making it possible to monitor people in ways that are technically 'public' (putting a GPS on their car, sitting outside their house with a thermal imager) but which nonetheless breach traditional and, more importantly, reasonable expectations.


    Your preference for what "reasonable expectation of privacy" should mean is not what it does mean. And the logic that "the only people that might happen to be watching you are random strangers" is, well... I guess calling it "logic" at all might be a bit of stretch.

    Simply put, what you say or do in public is not private. That's why there are two separate words to identify each environment: "public" and "private," for those of you counting. I don't mean it to sound condescending, but I would genuinely urge you to take a look at the 4th Amednment, and then review your above contention; nowhere in the scenario outlined above is the privacy of your "person, house, papers or effects" infringed. I'm genuinely curious about your argument; I don't seem to hold with the general P.A. view that all cops are bad, while all individuals are good and could never being doing something that might warrant the interest of Law Enforcement.


    It seems to me that your argument boils down to you being uncomfortable with the idea of surveillance as a technique by which Law Enforcement can investigate an individual. That puts you in a tough spot, because it is essentially the bottom-line use of man-hours for any investigatory agency, be it State, Local, or Federal.

    As an aside, I urge you to read the aforementioned ruling in Kyllo v United States, as some of the ideas included might make you feel a bit more secure in your REP.


    As CangoFett mentioned, the legal view of trackers in the abstract is that they are a substitute for the more-expensive man-hours of an officer/investigator. They generally do nothing more that what a Law Enforcement Official could do individually, and often do significantly less. The 9th Circuit ruling that trackers can be placed on vehicles even within the curtilage of a home, by the way, is not one that's been upheld in other circuits. Almost everywhere else in the nation, you'd need a warrant to place a tracker on a vehicle parked on private property.


    I don't mean to scare you, Just_Bri_Thanks, but private companies do the same thing: fraud investigation departments for insurance companies come to mind, but the variety of industries that utilize surveillance in one form or another is pretty large. The difference between Law Enforcement and most of those private industries is that L.E. is generally aiming to prevent/deter/solve criminal activity, while those other organizations -- again, with the notable exception of fraud investigation departments -- are often trying to profile a potential customer. There might be a qualitative difference in there, but it's not one I've thought out. I don't think any of them utilize trackers, but as trackers are only a substitute for human surveillance, I think the point is still valid.

  • SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    This exactly same thing happened to me back in the 1980s -- the interior door panel on the family minivan falls off as the door swings shut, and oh look our car has been bugged.

    Although in that particular case, I didn't mind; they went through a FISA court to obtain a warrant, and in any case we later learned that we weren't the targets of the investigation -- rather we were close enough to an ongoing investigation and someone associated with the subject of that investigation that the FBI became concerned that we may have started asking the wrong people about things we noticed. So they bugged the car to find out if we knew anything and were talking about it with anyone.

    Oh, and they totally did ask for all of their equipment back.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    MrMister wrote: »
    CangoFett wrote: »
    I mean, how is this any different than a cop doing a stakeout, and following the guy as he drives around town? You certainly dont need a warrant for that, as the dude is just driving around, you arent impeding on his privacy as the town is a public place.

    The privacy rationale is something like: a complete record of a person's movements over a period of weeks or even months gives an extremely intimate portrait of their life, of the sort that's normally only available to a spouse or very close friend (if even that). I tend to agree with this line of thought. I think that you still enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy even in 'public' spaces: in particular, you still enjoy the expectation that the only people that might happen to be watching you are random strangers, and certainly that no one is systematically following you and cataloging your every move. At the least, you should be able to enjoy this reasonable expectation.

    I prefer a concept of privacy more expansive than just "what literally occurs within the walls of your home." Even then we have recent rulings on new technology undermining that--police can thermally scan your home without your consent and if they see heat sources they can go on to raid you for growing pot. Really, I worry that new technology is eroding traditional privacy rights by making it possible to monitor people in ways that are technically 'public' (putting a GPS on their car, sitting outside their house with a thermal imager) but which nonetheless breach traditional and, more importantly, reasonable expectations.

    <3
    SammyF wrote: »
    This exactly same thing happened to me back in the 1980s -- the interior door panel on the family minivan falls off as the door swings shut, and oh look our car has been bugged.

    Although in that particular case, I didn't mind; they went through a FISA court to obtain a warrant, and in any case we later learned that we weren't the targets of the investigation -- rather we were close enough to an ongoing investigation and someone associated with the subject of that investigation that the FBI became concerned that we may have started asking the wrong people about things we noticed. So they bugged the car to find out if we knew anything and were talking about it with anyone.

    Oh, and they totally did ask for all of their equipment back.

    So they secretly bugged you even though you weren't a suspect and no files had been charged against you?

    That's... even worse. D:

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • SkannerJATSkannerJAT Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    It may be a minor detail. But someone sticking a tracker under my fender does not creep me out as much as someone having removed my door panel to install a bug. Its is probably the invasion of what I would consider personal space.

    You also have to figure he was being tailed at some point for them to know the tracker was removed. Unless it has some capability of knowing it was moved/detached.

  • LaOsLaOs Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    SkannerJAT wrote: »
    It may be a minor detail. But someone sticking a tracker under my fender does not creep me out as much as someone having removed my door panel to install a bug. Its is probably the invasion of what I would consider personal space.

    You also have to figure he was being tailed at some point for them to know the tracker was removed. Unless it has some capability of knowing it was moved/detached.

    He posted about it on the internet, trying to figure out what it was.

  • ForarForar #432 Already prepping for Toronto Fan Expo!Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    langfor6 wrote: »
    I would throw the device into a lake if this happened to me, and probably be brought up on charges for it.

    I always found the "attach it to something else" approach to be much funnier.

    But probably just as likely to get me in trouble. If not moreso.

    The next train of thought would be to mail it to the FBI, but I imagine it'd cost a pretty penny to do so, and getting a fairly heavy electronic device would probably be construed as a possible bomb and get me thrown in jail within a few hours of them getting it.

    sigtwo.png
  • SkannerJATSkannerJAT Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Maybe I am just used to hearing about all the screw ups from Federal law enforcement. I did not think they would be able to find a guy posting on the internet asking what something is, most likely under some handle, on some random forum and connect it with this guys tracker. But your probably right.

  • GaddezGaddez Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Putting aside the legality of Bugging for a moment, I find it incredibly hilarious that the FBI is demanding the return of there bug.

    Personally, I'd drop it off in the middle of nowhere and tell them to find it themselves based on the sounds being made.

    Spoiler:
  • enc0reenc0re Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    If I found that under my car,
    Spoiler:

    I'd run and call the bomb squad. Played too many FPS I suppose.

  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Holy shit. That is huge.

    Edit:
    Conversely. Holy shit, that thing is worth a lot of money on Ebay.

  • DanHibikiDanHibiki Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    enc0re wrote: »
    If I found that under my car,
    Spoiler:

    I'd run and call the bomb squad. Played too many FPS I suppose.

    what the hell? Is this the 60 or something?

    I can get a track-able GPS unit the size of a box of matches, what the hell is the rest of it?

    sig_zpsf0994cbd.jpg
  • DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2010
    DanHibiki wrote: »
    enc0re wrote: »
    If I found that under my car,
    Spoiler:

    I'd run and call the bomb squad. Played too many FPS I suppose.

    what the hell? Is this the 60 or something?

    I can get a track-able GPS unit the size of a box of matches, what the hell is the rest of it?

    A giant battery so they don't have to go replace it every 10 hours?

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