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Caught Spying, FBI Asks Student to Return GPS Tracker

FBI Tracking Device
Twenty-year-old Yasir Afifi took his car to the mechanic last week for an oil change, and wound up a minor Internet celebrity. When the California resident's Lincoln was raised on the car lifts Afifi and his mechanic, Mazher Khan, noticed something strange, with an antenna, near the car's exhaust. Afifi and his friend posted images of the device on Reddit, wondering if it was an FBI tracking device. A reader eventually identified the magnet lined tube as Orion Guardian ST820, a GPS tracking beacon used by law enforcement.

Afifi, who is a U.S. born citizen, knew he was on a federal watch list, largely thanks to being the child of the late Aladdin Afifi, also a U.S. citizen and president of the Muslim Community Association. Aladdin moved Yasir and his brothers to Egypt in 2003, but Yasir returned in 2008 to continue his education. But, while used to submitting to extra screening at airports, even Yasir was taken aback by the idea of having his every move monitored by the government.

The story took a particularly odd twist on Tuesday when FBI agents showed up at Afifi's Santa Clara apartment complex (in dramatic fashion, jumping out of SUVs as the student tried to leave the parking lot). Agents demanded that Afifi return the tracking device which they described as an "expensive piece" of "federal property." Wired has many details of the incident, as told by Afifi, and the agents don't come off sounding like a friendly bunch.

We can only assume one of two things, judging by the decision of the FBI to come looking for its equipment. Either the agency paid way too much for the tracker (seeing as we're pretty sure any modern cell phone is capable of the same trick), or Afifi was never considered a serious national security threat. One of the most basic rules of investigation is that you never let the target know they're a target.

Tags: fbi, gps, LawEnforcement, privacy, security, surveillance, top, tracking, web