[Ppnews] San Jose Arab American sues FBI over GPS

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 3 10:13:29 EST 2011

San Jose Arab American sues FBI over GPS

<mailto:begelko at sfchronicle.com>Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A 20-year-old Arab American from San Jose sued the FBI on Wednesday 
for secretly attaching a tracking device to his car and threatening 
him with federal charges when he refused to give it back.

Yasir Afifi is not politically active, has no connection to terrorist 
groups and has no idea why the FBI put him under surveillance, said 
attorney Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 
which filed the lawsuit. She said the FBI has disclosed some of the 
contents of its file on Afifi but has not said why he is being monitored.

"He fit the profile - an Arab American male, young, lives by himself, 
travels frequently to the Middle East to visit his family" in Egypt, 
Billoo said. She said Afifi is stopped and questioned every time he 
returns to the United States.

The suit seeks damages, an end to the surveillance and an order 
forbidding the FBI to place a global positioning service, or GPS, 
tracking device on a vehicle without a search warrant.

FBI representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Afifi, a college student in Santa Clara who also works as a salesman, 
said he took his car to a garage for an oil change on Oct. 3 and saw 
the device attached by magnets between the right rear wheel and the 
exhaust. He said he was afraid it was a pipe bomb, but learned it was 
a GPS tracker after posting pictures on the Internet.

Two days later, he said, three <http://www.sfgate.com/autos/>cars 
followed him when he drove from his apartment, and a man who 
identified himself as an FBI agent questioned him about the device. 
When he refused to retrieve it, he said, the agent threatened him 
with federal charges, and other agents asked him if he was a national 
security threat and inquired about a trip he was planning the following week.

Afifi said he eventually agreed to return the device, and another 
agent who accompanied him to the apartment congratulated him on his 
new job, information Afifi had not volunteered. He said an FBI report 
he obtained in January under the Freedom of Information Act contained 
statements he had made to the news media about the incident.

The FBI file also identifies people he contacted, hospitals he went 
to, organizations he belonged to, religious services he attended and 
restaurants he visited with friends and family, Afifi said.

Billoo said two prospective employers declined to hire Afifi after 
reading about his FBI encounter. The suit alleges that the 
surveillance and record-keeping were both illegal and were conducted 
under guidelines approved by FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The suit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., where 
appellate rulings have required police to get a warrant before 
installing a GPS device - in contrast to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court 
of Appeals in San Francisco, which has found no invasion of privacy 
when the device is attached in a public place.

E-mail Bob Egelko at <mailto:begelko at sfchronicle.com>begelko at sfchronicle.com.


This article appeared on page C - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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