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A young U.S. citizen busted cops spying on him without warrant, in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution. He was subsequently subject to a threatening confrontation with a group of armed law enforcement officials who demanded their tracking device back.  (Source: Wired)
ACLU is salivating at the opportunity to challenge the legality of GPS tracking

Think the U.S. Constitution protects you against searches on your property without warrant?  Think again.  The so-called "open field" precedent has allowed searches for some time now, and recently federal courts even upheld that federal agents can invade your driveway and plant tracking devices on your car without your knowledge and without a single warrant.

That practice has been brought into glaring focus by
Wired.com in the case of Yasir Afifi, a young Arab-American.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Afifi -- a 20-year-old U.S.-born citizen who attends the business marketing student at Mission College in Santa Clara, Caifornia -- he was under surveillance by the FBI, presumably due to the fact that his father was an Arab American community leader who died last year while traveling in Egypt.

Mr. Afifi had just taken his Lincoln LS for an oil change at Ali's Auto Repair when something unusual was found attached attached to his vehicle.  It was a wire that led to what appeared to be a multicomponent tracking system, complete with a large battery pack and transmitter device.  The wire was protruding by the right rear wheel and exhaust. 

The young man recalls, "I wouldn’t have noticed it if there wasn’t a wire sticking out."

Garage owner Mazher Khan confirms that the device was indeed there and that he helped Mr. Afifi remove it.

Unsure whether it was real or a prank, Mr. Afifi posted the pictures online on 
Reddit a CondeNast Digital site for user-generated content.  Mr. Afifi was apparently concerned the device might be a bomb or something.  He comments, " My plan was to just put the device on another car or in a lake, but when you come home to 2 stoned off their asses people who are hearing things in the device and convinced its a bomb you just gotta be sure."

A savvy reader identified that the device was indeed a GPS tracker -- a Cobham Orion Guardian ST820 that sells exclusively to U.S. law enforcement.  Former FBI agents have since confirmed that the model is indeed used by the bureau to track individuals within the U.S.

What happened next was a surprise for Mr. Afifi.  A team of a half-dozen armed FBI agents and police officers showed up at his door demanding that he return the device.  The agents indicated that they may have been monitoring Mr. Afifi for as long as three to six months. 

Reportedly Mr. Afifi asked, "Are you the guys that put it there?" and the agent replied, "Yeah, I put it there. We’re going to make this much more difficult for you if you don’t cooperate."

Mr. Afifi cooperated with the law enforcement team, returning their tracking device to them.

An FBI spokesperson at the bureau's San Francisco headquarters -- Pete Lee -- contacted by CondeNast's site 
Wired.com comments, "I can’t really tell you much about it, because it’s still an ongoing investigation."

The FBI also indicated that aside from concerns about Mr. Afifi's father, it also might be investigating Mr. Afifi because of a blog post that one of his college friends wrote that involved "something to do with a mall or a bomb."  The friend, Khaled (who helped Mr. Afifi post on
Reddit), recalls writing "something stupid", but says it wasn't anything serious.  Mr. Afifi defends his friend, stating, "He’s a smart kid and is not affiliated with anything extreme and never says anything stupid like that. I’ve known that guy my whole life."

Now the FBI may be the ones facing the heat.  Mr. Afifi has retained a high profile lawyer -- Zahra Billoo of the Council on American Islamic Relations .  He comments, "The idea that [government monitoring[ escalates to this level is unusual. We take about one new case each week relating to FBI or law enforcement visits [to clients]. Generally they come to the individual’s house or workplace, and there are issues that arise from that."

The ACLU is reportedly salivating at the case, which it believes could be used to try to overturn the government's ability to invade personal property and track citizens without warrant, something it considers a clear abrogation of due process.

Mr. Afifi recalls Mr. Alseth telling him, "This is the kind of thing we like to throw lawyers at."

While it's tempting to make this an issue of race or religion, it's important for readers to consider that the U.S. government under the Obama and Bush administrations has increasingly sought to increase the government's ability to spy on its citizens without warrant.  These changes impact all Americans, so this is a universal issue for citizens of the United States, not just Arab-American U.S. citizens.

 





"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain













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