Student Sues FBI Over GPS in His Car


Reason readers first learned of Yasir Afifi in our February issue's "Brickbats" section, where Charles Oliver wrote:

Yasir Afifi, an American-born student at California's Mission College, found an electronic device on his car, and a friend posted photos of it online. Shortly afterward, federal agents and local police called on Afifi, demanding that he return the GPS tracker to the FBI. They warned that if he did not comply, they would make things "much more difficult" for him.

Now A.P. is reporting he's suing over it:

Afifi's lawsuit, filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, claims the FBI violated his civil rights by putting the device on his car without a warrant. His lawyers say Afifi, who was born in the United States, was targeted because of his extensive ties to the Middle East — he travels there frequently, helps support two brothers who live in Egypt, and his father was a well-known Islamic-American community leader who died last year in Egypt.

FBI Spokesman Michael Kortan declined to discuss the lawsuit or the agency's investigation into Afifi, but said, "The FBI conducts investigations under well-established Department of Justice and FBI guidelines that determine what investigative steps or techniques are appropriate. Those guidelines also ensure the protection of civil and constitutional rights."…..

Judges have disagreed over whether search warrants should be required for GPS tracking. Afifi's lawyers say they are filing this lawsuit in hopes of a decision saying that any use of tracking devices without a warrant in the United States is unconstitutional.

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."

Jacob Sullum from last year on the legality of warrantless GPS surveillance.