Privacy

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
fbi, gps, robert mueller, spying, warrants



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.

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  • icon
    silverscarcat (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

      • icon
        Dark Helmet (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

        • icon
          :Lobo Santo (profile), 23 Mar 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!"

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

            • icon
              Dark Helmet (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • icon
    BentFranklin (profile), 23 Mar 2012 @ 1:34pm

    Robowarrants!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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.

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

  • icon
    weneedhelp (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

    • icon
      silverscarcat (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

      • icon
        weneedhelp (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

        • icon
          Digital Consumer (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

      • icon
        brenadine (profile), 2 Apr 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 chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wolfy, 24 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • icon
    Greevar (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    ScytheNoire, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • icon
    Patriot (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 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 chronology ]

    • identicon
      Prisoner 201, 25 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 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 chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 24 Mar 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 chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Mar 2012 @ 6:35am

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

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

  • identicon
    GPS Tracking, 17 Apr 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 chronology ]


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