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 Twitterverse
emptywheel @TimothyS Agree sit was arranged and propaganda, but did you see 2nd Q that got cut?
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emptywheel @BradMossEsq Or ask why when NSA caught illegally watchlisting 3000 USPs, they just moved it under 12333? @Ali_Gharib
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emptywheel @BradMossEsq Or ask how NSA can comply w/foreignness determination on 702upstream w/selectors that can't be foreign determined? @Ali_Gharib
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bmaz Hope was a good day in the 10th while I was out protecting the world from wrongful interjection of qualified immunity in municipal liability
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emptywheel @BradMossEsq Like when John Miller w/chance to ask why NSA destroyed 3000 files of raw USP in wrong place, spun Captains Chair? @Ali_Gharib
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bmaz RT @nancyleong: Other J. Lucero line of the day. "Why is gay people getting married a poison pill for heterosexual marriage?" #samesexmarri
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bmaz RT @nancyleong: Line of the day. Lucero asks OK govt atty about his brief. Says "I read ALL the words. I just didn't understand them." #sam
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emptywheel @BradMossEsq If the sign of corrupt govt is the softball questions, we're in trouble. @Ali_Gharib
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emptywheel @BradMossEsq Softballs happen in both places. All are not good. But it'd be nice to have some attention paid, as well, to OURS. @Ali_Gharib
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emptywheel @Ali_Gharib When I get invited to do a long profile of ADM Mike ROgers, hold me to account, please. @BradMossEsq
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emptywheel @BradMossEsq Right. The things that NSA's docs and sworn statements to courts are by def less accurate. @Ali_Gharib
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emptywheel @BradMossEsq So far all softballs in the US are actually hardballs, and only softballs under greater coercion are soft? @Ali_Gharib
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