Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Sunday, March 06, 2011

The GPS Question


A community college student who says he’s never done anything that should attract the interest of federal law enforcement officials filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the FBI for secretly putting a GPS tracking device on his car.

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.

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.

I worried about this last year when the 9th Circus, with Kozinski in stirring dissent, decided that no warrant was needed for GPS devices (or sneaking onto someone’s property to install them).  In the conflict between security and freedom, I tend to almost always side with freedom.  Search warrants are so easy to obtain, I worry when our government is so eager to bypass the requirements.  Proponents of warrantless GPSing claim it doesn’t really constitute a search and that the courts do not require a warrant for traditional tailing of a suspect.  But to me, breaking into someone’s car and electronically tracking every single move they make crosses a line. And, in general, I’m put off by weasel arguments that defend constitutional intrusions on technicalities.  When it comes to our liberties, I err on the side of generosity and the 10th amendment.  I prefer a buffer zone around our fundamental rights.

The ultra-liberal Obama Administration, of course, has been fighting tooth and nail to defeat any hint of warrant requirements for GPS devices.  Why do we think Democrats are better on civil liberties, again?

Hopefully, this will go all the way to SCOTUS.  I fear that they will rule in favor of the government, but at least we’ll get a clear read on whether the government can track every move you make without providing even a modicum of proof that they have reason to do so.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/06/11 at 09:32 AM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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