Friday, July 11, 2014

Man Finds FBI Tracking Device on Car, Posts Photos Online, Gets Visit From FBI

Photo: RedditSilicon Valley resident Yasir Afifi recently discovered an FBI tracking device on his car when he took it for an oil change.


Alarmed and curious about what it might be, Yasir posted photos of the device online, asking members of reddit whether it was a bomb, or possibly an FBI tracking device.

In a short amount of time Yasir learned that it was in fact a GPS tracking device, and it was made by a company that only sells to government agencies.

Days later he was able to learn the direct source of the tracking device, when he was visited by a large group of FBI agents who had seen his posts online, and wanted their device back.

When he was visited by the agents, Yasir had obvious questions about the situation.  Who had planted the device on his car, and why?  Was he suspected in some sort of investigation?

The agents refused to answer any of his questions and told him that if he refused to cooperate with them that they were going to make this situation as difficult as possible for him.

“It seems very frightening that the FBI have placed a surveillance-tracking device on the car of a 20-year-old American citizen who has done nothing more than being half-Egyptian,” Alseth told

Afifi had never given any signs that he was going to be uncooperative, but he just had a lot of questions about what was going on.  He did end up handing over the device willingly and said that he has no involvement in anything dangerous or illegal and that there is no reason for him to be under investigation.

Based on discussions that were had when the agents were at his house, Afifi got the impression that he had been under FBI surveillance for three to six months.

The FBI has released very few details to the media, or to Afifi himself about the nature of their investigation.  When asked by reporters an FBI representative said “I can’t really tell you much about it, because it’s still an ongoing investigation,”

"I was born here in Santa Clara, I just turned 20 last August. I'm a sales manager, we sell laptops and I'm a full-time student," Afifi told ABC News station KGO-TV in San Francisco

Afifi, the son of a prominent Muslim community leader who travels frequently to Egypt and the Middle East, said he took apart the GPS device, which was stuck underneath the belly of the car with a magnet, and showed it his friend. 

The friend photographed the device and posted images of it on, a user-generated news site, asking if it meant that the government was following them, Afifi said. 

A reader of that website responded that the device is an Orion Guardian ST820 tracking device, which is only sold to authorities, Afifi's lawyer said. 

Two days after discovering the tracking device Afifi said he was stopped and questioned by FBI agents and Santa Clara police officers as he left his Santa Clara apartment complex. 

According to Afifi, the FBI agent asked him a series of questions including whether he had been to Yemen for any type of training and whether he knows anyone "extreme or abnormal" or who who has been posting anything online that they shouldn't be. 

Afifi said he answered "no" to all of the agent's questions, before he was asked about the device. 

"He goes, 'Where is the device you located under your vehicle?' I didn't even answer that, I just asked him, 'Did you guys put it there?' and he goes, 'Yeah,'" Afifi said. 

FBI Special Agent Joseph Schadler refused to discuss Afifi's discovery with the media but did respond with the following statement: "Court decisions have consistently upheld that there is no warrant necessary for GPS tracking of a vehicle when the vehicle is in a public space." 

Afifi, who lived in Egypt for several years, travels there approximately once a year to visit his two brothers that currently live there, his lawyer said. In addition, his work in sales sends him to the Middle East on and off in different intervals, and he plans to travel to Dubai next week. 

Although the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recently re-affirmed the government's ability to use GPS devices on cars, Afifi's attorney Zahra Billoo, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the San Francisco Bay Area, said the college student's civil rights were violated in this series of events, and that his client was intimidated and harassed. 

"They won't come out and tell him what they've found so that he can clarify. He fits the profile, as a young Arab American male who travels frequently," Billoo told ABC "His father was very well-known in the community, he passed away several years ago in Egypt and was a President of his Mosque." 

"It wouldn't be such a textbook case of government abuse if they'd found something," she added. 

"Is it that you can just put it on any person's car and I would argue that is obviously an egregious violation of everybody's constitutional rights and should be challenged," said Billoo. 

According to Billoo, before the officers departed with the device they told Afifi not to worry and that he was "boring." 

Biloo said she and Afifi have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain any information the FBI will share on what they were looking into with Afifi. 

The FBI has said that their agents spoke with Afifi and that he is fully cooperating with them.

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