FBI Admits It Used GPS Tracking on 250 People without Probable Cause

NPR’s Carrie Johnson puts together the numbers on how many GPS trackers the FBI had to get warrants for after US v Jones held that you need a warrant to attach a GPS tracker to a car. And while she doesn’t state it this way, what the FBI basically admitted is that in 250 of the 3,000 cases where they had GPS units activated but no warrant–over 8% of the GPS devices in question–they lacked probable cause.

Before the Supreme Court ruling in late January, the FBI had about 3,000 GPS tracking devices in the field.

Government lawyers scrambled to get search warrants for weeks before the decision, working to convince judges they had probable cause to believe crimes were taking place.

But after the ruling, FBI officials tell NPR, agents still had to turn off 250 devices that they couldn’t turn back on.

FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann even admits to Johnson that they were using GPS tracking to get probable cause.

Weissmann says FBI agents in the field need clear rules. So, for now, he’s telling agents who are in doubt “to obtain a warrant to protect your investigation.”

But he says that’s not always possible.

“And the problem with that is that a search warrant requires probable cause to be shown and many of these techniques are things that you use in order to establish probable cause,” Weissmann says. “If you require probable cause for every technique, then you are making it very very hard for law enforcement.”

Now, I can understand why Weissmann and Robert Mueller would like to use GPS in the examples Mueller cited–where they have things like Internet statements and gun purchases.

But last I checked both of those things were constitutionally protected activities themselves.

So what the FBI’s reaction to Jones has really revealed is that it had been violating the Fourth Amendment protections of around 250 people to get around their First and Second Amendment protections.

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emptywheel @billmon1 Cruz just got to the Senate too late: remember when they were hunting AQ defense attys? @DanielLarison @Ali_Gharib
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emptywheel So after we impose 100% tax on Liz Cheney's inheritance and .1% net worth taxes on politico use of "homeland" THEN we can tax DOD contrators
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emptywheel Actually I think these are better taxes to pay for Get-Your-War-On: 1) Liz Cheney's inheritance. All of it 2) Pols using word "homeland"
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emptywheel @repjustinamash Is anyone asking who will pay for this yet? Can we impose a tax on defense contractors to pay for it?
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emptywheel @Atrios The Barnacle Branch. Get it straight!
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emptywheel @attackerman Glad that Dempsey being too honest in Senate testimony and therefore bolloxing Get-Your-War-On becoming yearly event.
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emptywheel @onekade Also small and boney. Like rabbit. Not very easy to cook with. @jilliancyork @tinyrevolution
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emptywheel Imagine if Admin wanted to kill US ISIS member. They'd throw wall-splat of Awlaki memos w/wall-splat of IS war memos http://t.co/kg5njzG26r
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bmaz @bmaz Kiki says "come visit me!" http://t.co/6t88fTyVIi
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emptywheel And then replaced by Condi. RT @shrubfree: no, [Goodell]'d be appointed viceroy of baghdad. #ageoffail
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emptywheel If Goodell were to lose non-profit status AND Anheuser-Busch, THEN would he get fired?
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