May it please the court, FBI turns off 3,000 GPS trackers

The Supreme Court may have neither the power of the sword nor the power of the purse, as Alexander Hamilton observed in "The Federalist Papers," but the FBI is taking its recent ruling on warrantless Global Positioning System tracking seriously, the Wall Street Journal reports.

To comply with the court's ruling in U.S. v. Jones, the FBI has disabled about 3,000 GPS devices it was using to keep track of suspects' locations, the Journal quotes FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann as saying Feb. 23 at a conference titled "Big Brother in the 21st Century."

In the decision on that case, handed down last month, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that planting a GPS device on a vehicle constitutes a "search" within the definition of the Fourth Amendment and therefore requires a warrant to be constitutional. As GCN reported at the time, that decision upheld the reversal of nightclub owner Antoine Jones' conviction on federal drug trafficking charges.

Weissmann said the FBI had some difficulty collecting the trackers it had switched off and had even tried to obtain court orders so it could find and collect them.

He added that the high court's decision was causing the FBI to do an even broader re-evaluation of its investigative policies beyond the technological angle.

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Reader Comments

Sat, Nov 23, 2013 ashad hossain USA

, the Journal quotes FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann as saying Feb. 23 at a conference titled "Big Brother in the 21st Century."

Wed, Feb 29, 2012 JasonAlexander

The key word in Mel's statement is "suspect". That simple word makes all the difference. That "suspect" is just as innocent as the person in the second sentence in the eyes of the law. Even ignoring the "suspect", I have absolutely no problem with requiring law enforcement to obtain a WARRANT if they think they have reasonable cause. If they've got cause, explain it to a judge. Law enforcement needs to ignore the "Easier to get forgiveness than permission". Get the permission.

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 Lisa

I totally agree with Mel's observation.

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 BaltFed

The problem was they planted it on the car while it was on private property in the State of Maryland after the warrant for its use in DC expired. See paragraphs 3 and 4 of this GCN article: http://gcn.com/Articles/2012/01/23/Supreme-Court-GPS-tracking-warrant.aspx?sc_lang=en&Page=2 As always, there appears to be a technicality involved, and these techincalities proect both the guilty AND THE INNOCENT!

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 Charles Kerr Hollywood, Florida

I find it amusing that the FBI is having to get Court Orders to go a retrieve some of their tracking devices. That should serve as a lesson in this experiment... if you have to get Court approval to retrieve the device, you probably needed Court approval to place them in the first place.

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