Student Says He Found FBI Tracking Device on Car

A 20-year-old Santa Clara man was questioned by the FBI after removing GPS.

October 9, 2010, 6:17 PM

Oct. 9, 2010— -- A 20-year-old college student in California said he was shocked to discover he has been followed by the FBI when earlier this week he found a GPS tracker placed underneath his car.

Yasir Afifi, a half-Egyptian, half-American Muslim and U.S. citizen, said he was having the oil changed on his car last Sunday at a Santa Clara, Calif., auto shop when he noticed a wire and the black device underneath the automobile as it was being raised.

"I was born here in Santa Clara, I just turned 20 last August. I'm a sales manager, we sell laptops and I'm a full-time student," Afifi told ABC News station KGO-TV in San Francisco.

Afifi, the son of a prominent Muslim community leader who travels frequently to Egypt and the Middle East, said he took apart the GPS device, which was stuck underneath the belly of the car with a magnet, and showed it his friend.

The friend photographed the device and posted images of it on, a user-generated news site, asking if it meant that the government was following them, Afifi said.

A reader of that website responded that the device is an Orion Guardian ST820 tracking device, which is only sold to authorities, Afifi's lawyer said.

Two days after discovering the tracking device Afifi said he was stopped and questioned by FBI agents and Santa Clara police officers as he left his Santa Clara apartment complex.

According to Afifi, the FBI agent asked him a series of questions including whether he had been to Yemen for any type of training and whether he knows anyone "extreme or abnormal" or who who has been posting anything online that they shouldn't be.

Afifi said he answered "no" to all of the agent's questions, before he was asked about the device.

"He goes, 'Where is the device you located under your vehicle?' I didn't even answer that, I just asked him, 'Did you guys put it there?' and he goes, 'Yeah,'" Afifi said.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Schadler refused to discuss Afifi's discovery with the media but did respond with the following statement: "Court decisions have consistently upheld that there is no warrant necessary for GPS tracking of a vehicle when the vehicle is in a public space."

Afifi, who lived in Egypt for several years, travels there approximately once a year to visit his two brothers that currently live there, his lawyer said. In addition, his work in sales sends him to the Middle East on and off in different intervals, and he plans to travel to Dubai next week.

Although the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recently re-affirmed the government's ability to use GPS devices on cars, Afifi's attorney Zahra Billoo, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the San Francisco Bay Area, said the college student's civil rights were violated in this series of events, and that his client was intimidated and harassed.

"They won't come out and tell him what they've found so that he can clarify. He fits the profile, as a young Arab American male who travels frequently," Billoo told ABC "His father was very well-known in the community, he passed away several years ago in Egypt and was a President of his Mosque."

"It wouldn't be such a textbook case of government abuse if they'd found something," she added.

"Is it that you can just put it on any person's car and I would argue that is obviously an egregious violation of everybody's constitutional rights and should be challenged," said Billoo.

According to Billoo, before the officers departed with the device they told Afifi not to worry and that he was "boring."

Biloo said she and Afifi have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain any information the FBI will share on what they were looking into with Afifi.

The FBI has said that their agents spoke with Afifi and that he is fully cooperating with them.