College student alleges FBI was spying on him

October 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A South Bay college student says the FBI spied on him and he found the GPS tracker to prove it. Yasir Afifi found the device attached to his car. He wondered what it was, but then a visit from a federal agent answered that question.

"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," said Afifi.

And on Sunday while Afifi -- a half Egyptian, half American Muslim -- got an oil change at a local auto garage, he noticed the GPS tracker attached to under belly of his car.

"The device I found was stuck by a magnet," said Afifi.

Afifi took it apart the GPS tracking device and then two days later, he says the FBI and other police stopped him as he left his Santa Clara apartment complex. That's when a federal agent started questioning him.

"'Have you ever been to Yemen for any type of training?' 'No.' 'Do you know anybody that's affiliated with anybody that's extreme or abnormal or posting anything online that they shouldn't be?' 'No,'" said Afifi. "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,'" said Afifi.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Schadler refused to discuss Afifi's discovery but did say, "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."

"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 Afifi's attorney Zahra Billoo.

Recently, a federal court of appeals re-affirmed the government's ability to use GPS devices on cars. Still, Afifi's attorney claims his civil rights were violated and he was intimidated and harassed.

"They can try, but I'd also add that federal officers are protected by some robust immunities in this context," said Assistant Professor Kyle Graham from Santa Clara University School of Law.

The FBI does say agents spoke with Afifi and that he is fully cooperating.


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