A 20-year-old college student in California recently found a GPS vehicle tracking device belonging to the FBI that had been secretly attached to his car. The FBI even showed up to his apartment a few days later and took the GPS tracking device back!
The student, Yasir Afifi, had taken his car in for a routine oil change when he and the oil change technician noticed wires hanging from a black box underneath his car. Neither one of the men knew what the device exactly was, so they immediately removed it from the vehicle.
Shortly after, not knowing exactly what the black box was or who had put it there, a friend of Afifi’s posted images of the GPS tracking device online. Next thing you know, about 48 hours later, 6 FBI agents showed up at Afifi’s apartment in Santa Clara, California, demanding that he immediately returned the GPS vehicle tracking device. The GPS tracking device was identified as a police-issue-only Cobham Orion Guardian ST82 vehicle tracking system.
According to the interview in Wired.com, Afifi, the son of an Islamic-American community leader who died a year ago in Egypt, is one of only a few people known to have found a government GPS tracking device on their vehicle. Afifi cooperated willingly and said he’d done nothing to merit attention from authorities. Comments the agents made during their visit suggested he’d been under FBI surveillance for three to six months.
The question of whether or not sticking a GPS on a car is legal is actually in the middle of a hot debate right now. His discovery comes 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.
Legality aside, the tactic itself might have been carried out with something less than precision. Simply put, tracking devices shouldn’t be so easy to find. Wired talked to an agent who said that not only is the tracking device out of date, but state-of-the-art snoops hardwire the stuff directly to the car’s electrical system, avoiding the need for a battery.
For more details on this story , check out the article at Wired Magazine.