Guy Finds FBI Tracking Device On Car, Posts Pics Online… FBI Shows Up Demanding It Back

from the well-that-confirms-it... dept

Just a couple weeks ago, we had written about a federal lawsuit concerning whether or not the Justice Department needs a warrant to put a tracking device on cars. In a very prescient manner, a bunch of our commenters started discussing what would happen if they found such a device on their car, and whether or not it would be legal to remove it. Well, now we have a case of exactly that happening.

Apparently a guy named Yasir Afifi, who lives in Silicon Valley, discovered a strange device on his car, when he took it in for an oil change. The friend he was with took some photos and posted them to Reddit, asking if it meant the FBI was after them… or if it was a bomb:

Lots of people in the thread quickly confirmed that it was a tracking device, made by a company who only sold to law enforcement. Then, to confirm things, a couple of days later, the FBI showed up to demand he return the device. Wired has a cinematic description of the encounter:

Afifi considered selling the device on Craigslist before the FBI showed up. He was in his apartment Tuesday afternoon when a roommate told him “two sneaky-looking people” were near his car. Afifi, already heading out for an appointment, encountered a man and woman looking his vehicle outside. The man asked if Afifi knew his registration tag was expired. When Afifi asked if it bothered him, the man just smiled. Afifi got into his car and headed for the parking lot exit when two SUVs pulled up with flashing lights carrying four police officers in bullet-proof vests.

The agent who initially spoke with Afifi identified himself then as Vincent and told Afifi, “We’re here to recover the device you found on your vehicle. It’s federal property. It’s an expensive piece, and we need it right now.”

Afifi asked, “Are you the guys that put it there?” and the agent replied, “Yeah, I put it there.” He told Afifi, “We’re going to make this much more difficult for you if you don’t cooperate.”

The full story is a lot longer, and a fascinating read, so head over to that link to check it out. It also suggests some of the reasons why the FBI might be watching Afifi — who says he already knows he’s on the federal watchlist — as well as concerns from the ACLU over the whole thing. Wired also spoke to an ex-FBI agent who thought that the FBI almost certainly would have gotten a warrant to install the device (though, given all the lawsuits, it seems they don’t always do so…) and who also pointed out that this particular device is really old. The newer devices, apparently, are much harder to find. They don’t come with their own battery pack, but run off the car’s battery, and are much more well hidden.

Either way, apparently this gives the FBI’s answer to what happens if you find the device. The friend on Reddit claimed they had thought about throwing it in a lake, or even just putting it on another car, “but when you come home to 2 stoned off their asses people who are hearing things in the device and convinced its a bomb you just gotta be sure.”

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Comments on “Guy Finds FBI Tracking Device On Car, Posts Pics Online… FBI Shows Up Demanding It Back”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Question...

> It is NOT a violation of someone’s rights to put a camera in a place,
> even a BATHROOM, where you own the building and are just RENTING
> IT to a tenant.

Actually, in many places it is a crime. Haven’t you been paying attention to the news lately– the Rutgers student who webcammed him dorm roommate having a gay romance?

The two kids have been charged under New Jerseys privacy laws with criminal violations. The same laws would apply to a landlord clandestinely spying on the tenants.

Anonymous Coward says:

Doesn’t law enforcement have any balls over there in the States? They didn’t have the decency of revealing their true intentions from the start and had to wait for him to get into the car and start going to the exit to show up with the heavy artillery.

If they wanted the device so badly, they should have just approached him (with the appropriate precautions, of course) and demanded the device. Even if they had to bring in the SWAT or the army for the job, it would be a lot better than hiding and lying.

Thomas (profile) says:

Re: The spooks..

don’t give a rats tushie about any such silly things as civil rights or the law. The guy who found the tracking device on his car is very very very lucky he didn’t get blown away by several automatic weapons or sent on a one way vacation to gitmo. The Gestapo is alive and well in the u.s. and Himmler would be proud. I am far more afraid of the spooks and police in my own country than of the Taliban.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Too bad

“If I had seen the device, I probaly would have called 911 about a bomb and perhaps a TV station or 2. Good pub. for the FBI to have created a bomb scare in the neighborhood.”

From the comments in that post.

Actually, that’s probably a good idea. Better than smashing it, give the FBI bad publicity. I’m sure they would much rather I smash the device than to give them bad publicity over it. If I smash it they may try to make me pay for it and even if they don’t make me pay for it I’m sure the lack of bad publicity is worth more to them then the device. If I give them bad publicity what can they do? I’ll tell a judge I didn’t know it wasn’t a bomb, I don’t know the difference between a tracking device and a bomb. I wanted to be safe and so I called the bomb squad. Call them from your cell phone and when they show up stay like 300 feet away from the building and explain to them where the device is. Let the news media broadcast the whole thing.

Ryan Diederich says:

The Line Between Rights and Laws Fades....

He could have done many of the things that you all have suggested, sold it, destroyed it, moved it, etc. They would make his life miserable. They control the information, they control the courts.

Imagine if they filed against him for tampering with police evidence or obstructing an investigation… He would never win.

Therein lies the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

From the wired article:
” One of the agents produced a printout of a blog post that Afifi’s friend Khaled allegedly wrote a couple of months ago. It had “something to do with a mall or a bomb,” Afifi said. He hadn’t seen it before and doesn’t know the details of what it said.”

The post in question, which is apparently enough to start an FBI investigation (if you’re a brown person).

“bombing a mall seems so easy to do. i mean all you really need is a bomb, a regular outfit so you arent the crazy guy in a trench coat trying to blow up a mall and a shopping bag. i mean if terrorism were actually a legitimate threat, think about how many fucking malls would have blown up already.. you can put a bag in a million different places, there would be no way to foresee the next target, and really no way to prevent it unless CTU gets some intel at the last minute in which case every city but LA is fucked…so…yea…now i’m surely bugged : /”

stokessd (user link) says:

better idea

Putting it on another vehicle would not really be an issue for the FBI because the thing tells them exactly where it is, so the FBI could call the nearest police dept along the route to stop that car and grab the device. easy peasy.

The real fun would happen when you start to understand what is there. That device is essentially a GPS receiver, and a data radio. Unless the manufacturer has been rolling their own receivers, dollars to doughnuts, the receiver chip talks to the data radio via a serial protocol. My recommendation would be to cut the serial line from the GPS chip and take a little computer or even an arduino and an SD card and playback the GPS output of a car going in a loop up and down the the PCH or something similar into the data radio. Then take that whole thing and put it on another car. Hilarity ensues…


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: better idea

Up and down the PCH? How about at three times the legal speed limit? How about doing doughnuts on the White House lawn? Jumping the grand canyon? Visiting the Mariana Trench? I mean you only have so much vacation time, you should do something a little adventurous. I hear the International Space Station is nice.

Anonymous Coward says:

What makes you think that someone who is on the watch list and says “they had thought about throwing it in a lake, or even just putting it on another car, “but when you come home to 2 stoned off their asses people who are hearing things in the device and convinced its a bomb you just gotta be sure.” would ever consider calling 911?

btr1701 (profile) says:


> apparently this gives the FBI’s answer to what happens if you find the device.

Not really. All it does is show what happens when you find it and publicize the fact that you found it. If you find it and do what those guys planned on doing, and put it on another car or something, the question is still open– what will they try and do to you? Obstruction? Destruction of government property?

Are you under some legal obligation to leave strange shit alone that you find on your car?

I’m a cop myself and I have no idea what the actual answers to these questions are.

Anonymous Coward says:

A friend of mine is a cop and his chief put tracking devices on the squads to make sure his guys were not screwing off. My friend of course knew this, took it off and stuck it on a regional bus. They were pretty pissed off but couldn’t prove that he did it.

What are you doing that you believe that the police (FBI, DEA, NEA, PETA or anyone else) would want to follow you or tap your phone or read your emails? Most of mine even I don’t want to listen to or read. As for the following, I guess I must be missing out because where I go wouldn’t interest anyone. What is your life about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They were pretty pissed off but couldn’t prove that he did it.

That’s the nice thing about being a cop, they have to PROVE that you did something wrong before they can punish you for it (which is probably why the chief went to the extremes that he did). Whereas in the regular world it’s pretty much up to whatever your boss happens to think (they don’t have to “prove” anything).

hmm says:

its not illegal if

It would only be considered legal IF the landlord clearly mentioned in the tenancy agreement that the tenant was to be spied on, the tenant agreed that this was a part of the deal and the terms for the “spying” were unambiguous.

section 2: Landlord reserves the right to poke a hole in the toilet stall, insert a camera lens and masturbate furiously in the neighbouring flat whilst you strain to release an enormous poo………

HighlanderJuan says:

What about Obama

It’s pretty well understood by now that Obama and the dem controlled congress have stolen trillions from the United State’s citizens. It is also understood that the union chieftans, who visit the white house every week, get a large portion of the stolen funds.

My question is, why doesn’t the FBI track and harass the powerful thieves in government first, and then go after the miscreants in the public arena?

Crap. I can answer my own question: the FBI reports to Holder – the second biggest lawbreaker in the central government.

Sorry, America, you will never see justice or freedom under communist dictatorships like ours.

Jennifer says:

A random largish magnet appeared on my car

I came back to my car after leaving it in a parking lot for about 6hrs one night. It is magnet about the size of my hand, with the picture of a cartoon hornet, looking fierce with a sailors hat, big muscles and giant machine gun lol. I have a few stupid ridiculous(gov sucks) reason why some law enforcement might be tracking me.

Any chance there could be a chip in the magnet? It was just on the side of my front hood but what a really non obvious way. At first I saw
it and thought it was funny so I kept it there…what are y’all thoughts?

Jennifer says:

A random largish magnet appeared on my car

I came back to my car after leaving it in a parking lot for about 6hrs one night. It is magnet about the size of my hand, with the picture of a cartoon hornet, looking fierce with a sailors hat, big muscles and giant machine gun lol. I have a few stupid ridiculous(gov sucks) reason why some law enforcement might be tracking me.

Any chance there could be a chip in the magnet? It was just on the side of my front hood but what a really non obvious way. At first I saw
it and thought it was funny so I kept it there…what are y’all thoughts?

oscarjimenez says:

Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 8th, 2010 @ 11:17am

They don’t have ballas they follow me every fucken place sneak around my house at 3 am they made me think I was loosing it long story short they don’t hellp there just another problem its a bunch of idiots who just have fun and don’t really keep the main goal!to stop crime!or help thouse in need ! All they want is the dope .they ignore the kids who get neglected in the dope houses and that’s where they should start ! They should cut the fucken cycle from early age.but then again some are fucken to young probly fresh out the fucken army or watever.they even use family .mocking u at stores etc and funny when I drive true long lonley roads at nite by my self ! There to scary to follow me then.what does that tell u ? They need to get there fucken eyes open.and if u wanna stop drugs stop the addicts but they probly just wanna hit the big dogs to colect some cash.

Walter says:


Did they verify the guys ere actually FBI? Could’ve been another agency or just somebody who wanted to track him for their own reasons but needed a credible scapegoat to blame. It could also explain why they demanded the expensive device back. The FBI can afford to lose costly equipment, a jealous husband or rival, not so much.

Anonymous Coward says:

What about Obama

>dem controlled congress

What? You guys only had this for a short period from 2008-2010 then the FUD Tea Party Obama is a Muslim-Terrorist-Nigger-not-born-in-the-US thing was in full swing and it tossed out the Democratic majority in 2010 by-elections.

While Obama isn’t as awesome as previously advertised, that gridlock congress you got going on where they will say no to anything good (certainly not privacy policy, but other things)proposed by Obama/Democrats was to be blocked. It’s a proven policy of the Republican Congress ffs! Boehner agreed with Obama for barely 24 hours for immigration reform, and his party took a shit on him and he had to go against his own thoughts to please the bunch of inbred doofuses in there.

Democrats control the Senate and from what I hear the tea partiers are into, they better stay in control of it.

Anonymous Coward says:


When I went to the police academy we went over this. (Most of my classmates were on the fence about it like I am and am super interested in the conclusion) . In my state, tracking cars was legal because it was federally legal, although it was almost unheard of to do it…but the device was required b law to draw it’s own power and to not interfere with the vehicle in amt way. It couldn’t draw off the battery, engine, etc or change how the car drives or hinder it in any way.
It was a lot of “it’s technically legal but…”.

Crystal Starheart (user link) says:

FBI connected to planting bombs and other criminal operations too....

He is lucky that is all they put on his car….. look what happened to Michael Hastings and Judy Bari…….They are also connected to covert entry burglaries in Washington state… I’ve lost THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN PROPERTY TO THESE COVERT ENTRY CRIMINALS HIDING BEHIND HOMELAND SECURITY AGENCY AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT PROTECTION……



Reality bites (profile) says:

Proves how utterly ignorant and evil the feds are.

I guess it goes without saying, if you are evil/stupid enough to want to work for a rogue agency, can’t expect them to have enough sense to walk and chew gum.

Common sense is completely lacking in the rogue treason for profit industry, whether it’s making landmines, armed drones to murder children with, militarizing the private armies or giving diplomatic immunity to mercenaries, no oversight never any justice. Just look at blackwater.

Anonymous Coward says:

Michael Hastings

Throw it in the trashcan and claim you were repairing your car and noticed this thing that wasn’t there before and since you figure it wasn’t doing your car any good you threw it away not knowing what it is or where it came from. Make sure you do it the day they collect the trash so it can get picked up by the garbage trucks.

Anonymous Coward says:

With all of the great ideas (city bus, southbound truck, thrown down the hole in a port-o-let)… I think the BEST idea would be to take it down to the hood & find a hooptie with giant 56″ wheels sitting outside of a crack house. Attach and watch the fun!

It would lead them to an actual criminal! 😉

I don’t think they would be nearly as mad after you helped do their job for them… better than they are doing it.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

FBI connected to planting bombs and other criminal operations too....

Get them on the hook for damages because they used their device in an unsafe or inappropriate manner? I like that one.

Personally speaking? I’d figure out which senator (or other government figure) is dead set against this sort of thing and go put it on their car. After a few days pass, I’d send this senator an anonymous warning on FBI stationary (easily faked) stating they are currently being watched without a warrant to do so. And it would be true, too, if the FBI didn’t realize they were now watching someone other than their intended target.

Glad this story got resurrected. Never read it until today. 🙂

George Baken (user link) says:

GPS tracking

GPS tracking device can be used for harmful effects by terrorists, thieves, and other rivals. If someone hides it inside your vehicle without letting you know then you are not safe and your location can be tracked on a mobile phone or any other device to cause you harm. Inform to police if you found such device near by your vehicle for safety.

dave (profile) says:

fbi device found in my car

In east mesa arizona couple days ago I found a odd device in my car.I don’t have a cell phone and I have not been online because someone else is invading my WiFi being able to follow my stuff on my tablet even with highest security options. Finnaly I got the balls to look this up

Looked it up with serial number. It is a FBI tracking device! I’m completely dumbfounded. I don’t know how it got there but it was not there days ago. Also my car won’t start, and stranage things have happened that if I tolled anybody they would think I’m crazy.things like this morning I woke up and found my car door key on the floor inside next to my front door. Went to get my keychain and it was not there were I lefst it. It was on the floor next to my bed. Other shit has happened that is not a cowinsident.
But I have proof now. Now I’m not sure what to do? But I feel very violated.

Jonathon says:

The only thing that I do is go to work and live it work the only thing that I would like to be doing is working on my 300ZX after work if y’all could let me know how to get it back working after y’all installed all the devices I will personally keep a tracking device on it for you I know I’m not an angel I know that y’all don’t like excuses on why people turned out the way they did but if you would like to talk to me about anything my number is 903-724 6432

Bert Clayton says:

camera in shower?

That lady needed to ask around as there’s an exchange of money for use of the property as ones’ private residence. Some attorneys are in bed with those who have clout in an area who have their own union you might say where they may deny being able to do anything. Corrupt police can be in.on such as well. But he violated her at an intimate time which is very personal. Where if she can, contact the a.c.l.u. and anyone else. Which if she can’t find an attorney but word gets around,.some righteous fellow might hurt that manager severely. Which if I was a cop and seen it hapoen I’d drive on by. Where there’s some righteous people that use street justice.
But an honest attorney, if he can prove it, she’d own that home and more!

Bert Clayton says:

f.b.i. tracker

Now about the f.b.i. With that guy’s name he’s probably middle eastern. Where a bigot in the f.b.i. may be wanting to catch him doung something to hang his rear. Where that’s a criminal act if he doesn’t have a warrant, which a warrant is only needed if things are going to be legal. Otherwords a zealous officer could put a tracking device on the vehicle and go months or years tracing the guys every step and if he goes into some arwas associated with certain crimes, he can then remove the transmitter and come up with a reason to put him.under surveillance. As he may desirefor this fellow to lead him to other middle easterners like maybe if they have a camp. Find where it is, remove transmitter, then pursue investigations for other reasons.
Then an honest agent might do something as a means to.protect the guy given anti arab sentiments.
Which some may not know this, but there’s groups as neighbors, others who’re into things that’ll do the same thing in an area. May simply use a cell phone so they can listen in too. Employers, coworkers trying to find what they can,.landlords,.snoopy neighbors, the list is endless. Which all qualify as stalking if a person experiences bad situations and things. But there’s the issue of proving it in court. Where the Constitution calls it the burden of proof.
Like one said if I found such on my.vehicle or hidden within the structure, I’d most likely simply take it off and throw it in a river. Where it’s my vehicle and anything I don’t want on it or in it, I have justification to remove and dispose of. As a person has the right to be secure in their person,.paper and effects. The effect is my.vehicle or my home. Find something I don’t know what it is, I’d suspect others with nose problems or desiring to do something wrong.
Better yet, attatch it to a hibernating bear. Or anything of similiar nature.

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