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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