Muslim American Sues FBI over Tracking Movements

Wednesday, 02 Mar 2011 05:36 PM

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A California Muslim man sued the Obama administration and the FBI Wednesday for violating his constitutional rights by tracking his movements with a GPS device hidden on his car.

Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old American citizen studying in Santa Clara, California, was alerted to the tracking device by a mechanic last October when he took his car for an oil change. He was confronted by FBI agents days later after removing it.

The lawsuit accused the FBI and the Justice Department of violating his constitutional rights by conducting searches without a warrant, tracking his movements and chilling his freedom of association and freedom of speech.

"I don't deserve to be followed or spied on whatsoever. I should be able to travel back and forth freely without being held for four hours or interrogated at all," Afifi said at a news conference in Washington.

"Now, I have already encountered two employers who have had to think twice before hiring me and have denied me the job due to this very incident," he said.

Afifi sought unspecified damages and requested a judge bar the FBI and Justice Department from tracking him without a warrant and expunge any records and related analysis they have collected.

When Afifi was confronted by FBI agents after removing the tracking device, they asked him "whether he was a national security threat," why he traveled abroad, and if he had been to Yemen, a hotbed of al Qaeda activity, the lawsuit said.

One agent also congratulated him on a new job he had taken and complimented his taste in restaurants, the lawsuit said.

The FBI has been criticized by some civil liberties groups for some of its surveillance tactics on Muslims, including using undercover agents to attend mosques in an attempt to discover and thwart possible terrorism plots.

"The FBI conducts investigations under well established Department of Justice and FBI guidelines that determine what investigative steps or techniques are appropriate," said FBI spokesman Michael Kortan.

A Justice Department spokesman said the agency was reviewing the lawsuit and declined further comment.

A U.S. appeals court in Washington threw out a conviction in a drug case last August after rejecting the federal government's argument that it can conduct tracking with GPS without a warrant.

In contrast, a U.S. Appeals Court in San Francisco upheld the conviction a year ago of an individual who had argued a GPS tracking device used on his vehicle was an illegal search. (Additional reporting by Sarah Irwin, editing by John Whitesides)

© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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