Apr 30 2015
A federal judge has dismissed a California Muslim’s lawsuit over a GPS tracking device the FBI secretly planted on his car in 2010. Yasir Afifi discovered the device after a technician doing an oil change noticed a strange box attached to Afifi’s car. He was later visited by FBI agents who asked him about his finances and travel to Yemen.
Politico Represented by designated terrorist group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), Afifi filed suit in 2011, alleging that he was subjected to a warrantless search and had his rights violated under the First Amendment and the Privacy Act.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that placement of a GPS tracker on a person’s automobile is a search that requires a warrant under the Constitution. However, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell ruled Thursday that Afifi could not seek financial damages under that precedent because it was not widely-accepted law at the time the FBI placed the tracker in 2010. Howell also denied Afifi’s request that the records be erased from FBI files in accordance with the Privacy Act. (Good)
“The pertinent question is whether the investigation was valid and not whether every act taken in furtherance of the investigation was valid,” Howell wrote. “The plaintiff’s information was collected prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones and was valid under then-existing law in the jurisdiction of collection. Accordingly, even to the extent the proper inquiry should focus on the investigative tactic used to collect the records, the collection of the plaintiff’s records in this case was valid under the precedent of the jurisdiction where it was collected.”
Howell placed portions of her 27-page opinion under seal. They appeared to quote an FBI official’s classified declaration detailing the reasons for investigating Afifi.
“The information contained in the sealed declaration is sufficient to determine that the records are within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity. Nonetheless, it bears noting that to the extent the plaintiff seeks to vindicate his own actions or to otherwise discredit the initiation of the FBI’s investigation through the use of discovery, the investigation is now closed and this Court is satisfied regarding the evidence giving rise to the FBI’s investigation in the first instance,” Howell wrote.
CAIR spokesman Corey Saylor whined that the Supreme Court decision three years ago affirmed the central legal point Afifi’s suit sought to establish. “This outcome is what CAIR sought in raising this particular challenge on Yasir Afifi’s behalf in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.