FBI Turns Back On 2,750 Of The 3,000 GPS Devices It Turned Off For Lack Of A Warrant

from the spy-spy-spy-away dept

In January, we wrote about the Supreme Court's somewhat surprising ruling on GPS monitoring by law enforcement, in which it suggested (but didn't fully say) that putting a GPS device on a car might need a warrant -- a pretty easy process that the FBI just didn't want to go through. Following this, we noted a report saying that the FBI scrambled to turn off 3,000 such devices that had been placed without a warrant.

However, in an NPR report about just how unhappy the FBI is about all of this, it notes that the FBI actually scrambled to file for warrants on most of those 3,000 devices, such that only 250 were permanently shut off. And yet it's still complaining about this whole "getting a warrant" thing. As Tim Lee notes, FBI director Robert Mueller is basically complaining to Congress that it's just so hard:
In Congressional testimony last month, FBI Director Robert Meuller said the ruling "will inhibit our ability" to do GPS tracking "in a number of surveillances where it has been tremendously beneficial." Mueller said that in cases where they didn't have probable cause, the FBI is forced to deploy teams of six to eight people to track suspects the old-fashioned way.

"If you require probable cause for every technique, then you are making it very, very hard for law enforcement," an FBI lawyer told NPR.
But, uh, isn't that why we require a warrant? It's supposed to be hard to spy on people. That's kind of one of the key principles of the Constitution. Again, as Lee notes:
Of course, that's kind of the point. Law enforcement's job would be a lot easier if we just did away with the Fourth Amendment and gave the police unfettered spying powers. But that would open the door to abuses of power, so the founders wisely limited government searches to cases where the government could demonstrate it had probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed.
Separately, the fact that so many of the devices were able to be turned back on via a warrant suggests that this intermediary review step isn't really a problem for the FBI in most cases. But it's one that likely stops significant abuse of the system.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    Meanwhile, in the Hall of Doom (FBI)

    "Alright, here's the plan. First, we gather the evidence illegally."
    "Okay..."
    "Then we go to the Judge saying that we have, without a reasonable doubt, plenty of evidence to get a warrant."
    "Okay."
    "THEN we get the warrant and use our illegally obtained evidence as legally obtained evidence and crush the poor bastards!"
    "BRILLIANT!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    Robowarrants!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Meanwhile, in the Hall of Doom (FBI)

    "Fools just tell the judge the person is a possible terrorist and not only can we track his car, but all his communications. Newbs"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Meanwhile, in the Hall of Doom (FBI)

    "Superfool! Just say the word 'internet' over and over again until a warrant automatically falls out of the judge's ass. Pwned."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Will they be punished if say something like 50% of those 2700 cases, end up *not* being guilty or not actually having probable cause? It stills seems they got the warrants way too easy to me.

     

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  6.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Taps playing quietly in background.

    "If you require probable cause for every technique, then you are making it very, very hard for law enforcement," an FBI lawyer told NPR.

    A small part of what I believed this country to be just died... again... and again.

    I gotta stop reading TD on Fridays.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Taps playing quietly in background.

    Would you rather have this news on Monday?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Meanwhile, in the Hall of Doom (FBI)

    "supermegafools! Claim he's a spy and have the CIA illegally track him everywhere without ever going near the court system!"

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Meanwhile, in the Hall of Doom (FBI)

    "Ha you have gone one step to far. Now we have to give him rights and back to his country."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meanwhile, in the Hall of Doom (FBI)

    "Ha HA! We'll classify him as an enemy combatant, stick him in Gitmo, and say he downloaded a couple of NeYo songs so he'll never have money again!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Meanwhile, in the Hall of Doom (FBI)

    Ha but we can still go ask the NSA to give us anything we need. They already have it all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Taps playing quietly in background.

    Agreed.

    He wants to do the illegal search so that he can find probable cause to justify the search. That's not how things work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 2:01pm

    Should be part of the law if it's not already...

    Information gained illegally without a warrant should not be able to be used to get a warrant to in turn make the information legal or AT LEAST if you present evidence gained illegally you can have your warrant to look for more evidence but what you presented is now automatically inadmissible in court.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 2:03pm

    The fact that so many warrants were issued so quickly also points to the fact that they aren't just randomly selecting people without probable cause, which is a good thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    JackSombra (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 2:10pm

    Re:

    Or they just found a pet judge to rubber stamp them all

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Taps playing quietly in background.

    I guess anytime would be lousy. Its just now I have to take this knowledge home and look at my innocent 3.5 year old daughters eyes knowing that she has no idea whats in store for her future. Hell we dont even know, but from what has been done in the past, looking to the future, it seems bleak, and I believe her generation will see bloodshed over issues that have been fought for before. History is doomed to repeat itself. Only this time, the forces they will face will be much more brutal than anything we have seen in the past. I hope I am wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 2:16pm

    Re:

    Wait... How so? If there are so many how does that prove they have PC?

    If anything it appears to imply the opposite.

    And yes they just might have a pet judge to rubber stamp everything.

    They just left those 250 out to say see, see wer are doing it right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Digital Consumer (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Taps playing quietly in background.

    I have the same sick feeling. I wonder if my cowardice will pave the way for my 4 year old son to be a combatant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Greevar (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 3:18pm

    Too hard? Too bad.

    Gathering evidence against criminals should be hard so as to prevent the authorities from trampling the rights and liberty of all the innocent citizens in the name of justice. Liberty should always come before security. Security is why we have the second amendment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Too hard? Too bad.

    And why it comes AFTER the first.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    ScytheNoire, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 3:43pm

    Contempt for Legal System

    Seems like most of the American Justice System has a contempt for the Justice System. From FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA, they all care nothing about what the judges and legal system says and are rogue agents doing whatever they want.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    BeeAitch (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 4:25pm

    Re: Re:

    As BentFranklin said above:

    Robowarrants!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Patriot (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 5:53pm

    Ben Franklin in February 17, 1775

    Said it best:
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    so now that we still have the Patriot act still in effect. thos b*st*rds can do any thing thet want

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 8:32pm

    I wonder if they left out the 250 not because they couldn't find a judge to rubber-stamp the warrants, but because the devices were found and somehow disposed of by the ones they were trying to track?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 9:24pm

    Actually, it's more:

    FBI obtains valid warrants for 91% of GPS devices order shut off by court.

    See, you seem willing to mostly gloss over the main point that, in the end, the units were still pretty much all used in ways that would be considered valid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2012 @ 4:23am

    No, the main point is that the FBI and our alleged Justice Department aren't concerned with anybody's rights until somebody forces them to be. Even then they complain that respecting proper due process is just do darned hard that they really wish we'd all just be good sheep and trust them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, Mar 24th, 2012 @ 6:34am

    Re: Taps playing quietly in background.

    The Gov't always releases news they hope will be overlooked on Fridays...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2012 @ 9:40am

    Re:

    The thing is, if in 91% of the cases they got the warrant, aren't they generally right? Is there perhaps a few people making too big of a fuss out of something like this? Should there not instead perhaps be simple rules for law enforcement to follow to allow this sort of technology to be used without a warrant, such as:

    1) the device may be attached only in respect to a current, ongoing investigation, and the use of the data obtained limited only to that investigation.

    2) device may only be attached to a car when it is in a public space or on commercial property (such as shopping center parking, example).

    3) no data about the location of the car or it's movements while on private property can be considered

    4) a notice of use to be filed with the courts within 7 days, at which time the device may be ordered removed and the data collected destroyed, and any investigation as a result of the data not be allowed for use in prosecution.

    So basically, making it so that the police cannot apply the unit without an ongoing investigation, be required to inform the court, and give the court the ability to nul it out if need be.

    My thoughts are this: Police are chasing a getaway car from a robbery. A gps device magnet mounted might be able to get attached to the get away car to allow them to track it without a high speed chase. However, if GPS (or other technilogy) tracking requires a warrant, the police would be forced to not consider such an option. There should be a way to do things that allows the courts to get involved, without slowly or impeding law enforcement actions, especially when those actions are done with good volition and intention.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Mar 24th, 2012 @ 10:34am

    So sad!

    "FBI Director Robert Meuller said the ruling "will inhibit our ability" to do GPS tracking "in a number of surveillances where it has been tremendously beneficial."

    Awww, their ability will be inhibited. So sad! I imagine it will cause erectile dysfunction too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Prisoner 201, Mar 25th, 2012 @ 5:28am

    Re:

    I'd like to see the number of man-hours logged on evaluating the merits of these warrants.

    It probably looks something like this:
    Monday morning: Rubber stamped until arm tired. Denied remaining 250.

    Or if you want to cut them some slack; the 250 were easy "deny" cases (like, the "reason to spy" box was empty) and they assumed everything else was "OK".

    I would not even be surprised anymore if it went more like this:
    "We can't approve all of them, it will look fishy, we need to deny some. Yes Adam? Sure, 250 sounds about right, we'll roll with that. Then we can say over 90% was approved, that has a nice ring to it."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2012 @ 6:35am

    This is one of the secret interpretations of the Patriot Act in action.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    brenadine (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Taps playing quietly in background.

    it's monday and i'm going for a beer now...i think i prefer getting this on Mondays.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    GPS Tracking, Apr 17th, 2012 @ 1:00pm

    I'm glad to have GPS tracking technology available for legitimate purposes, and I want law enforcement agencies to be able to utilize it to catch criminals. But the fourth amendment was passed for a reason and warrants should be obtained.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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