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
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
© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.