FBI Uses GPS on a Reddit User!
A Legal Eye Investigation Transcript Mystery
The idea of someone knowing your every move is incredibly unsettling. There becomes a degree of helplessness that comes with not having any privacy whatsoever. Yet interestingly enough, every single day with the advent of new technology, it becomes easier and easier for someone with power to track our every move. In this article we're going to take a look at one such story of a Redditor and his friend who had their entire lives put under surveillance.
In 2010, a redditor was with his friend who was on his way to take his car into the mechanic while his friend's car was getting maintenance done. He noticed that under the exhaust pipe, there was something sticking out. When the car had been purchased a year prior, it had been inspected, so this object was never seen before and it could not have belonged to the previous owner. After getting the car work done, the device was removed from the exhaust.
And immediately prompted questions from the two friends as to how and why it got there after they got back home. This leads us to a Reddit post on October 7th, 2010. This post comes from a user named Khalid the Gypsy, who would post into the All section asking what the device was. His post read the following, "Me and my friend went to the mechanic today and we found this on his car. Here's a picture I'm pretty confident this is a tracking device by the FBI. My friend's roommate thinks it's a bomb. Any thoughts?"
Attached to this photo, we get to take a look at exactly what this device looked like. Notably, we see something that resembles a walkie-talkie and a cylindrical shaped object in tandem. Due to the outlandish claim and potential here, this thread would gain quite a bit of traction at first, a few users were skeptical, but with the hive mind of Reddit looking at the photo, 1 user was able to identify exactly what the device was. His comment read the following.
"It's a guardian ST820. It's a GPS tracking unit made by the company Cobham.
The product line is called Orion, the Redditor who said the battery and magnetic unit is handmade is wrong. You've got the standard kit. Sales are restricted to army and law enforcement. So yes, the FBI or police is after you." After I saw this photo, I wanted to look into this individual tracking unit and what's incredibly interesting is that there's barely any info whatsoever. Most of it is just referring to this story and of all the info I did find, it came from WikiLeaks, of all places. According to this document in 2011.
About the individual guardian St 820, among other models, we get to take a look at quite a bit of features of the device. What I found to be the most disturbing was the fact that it allowed for real time notifications and whether someone you were tracking left an individual boundary area that you set for them. The other thing that isn't really surprising is the fact that it's integrated with Google Maps to allow for additional location information, including Google Earth and Google Street View. Also notably in this document we get to take a look at the actual interface used for skyweb, which is actually very interesting.
Because it's incredibly detailed, this redditor was definitely not supposed to find this device under his friend's car whatsoever. I want to clarify one thing before we move forward. Khalid, the Gypsy, is the op of the post. He did not own the car. He simply made the post about the device his friend's car was the one that was being tracked, and at the time there was no understanding why the name of the friend who was being tracked by the FBI was Yasir Afifi, who was a 20 year old marketing student and Khalid was the Redditor getting back to the Reddit thread. Many users also seemed to question whether or not it was even legal to have a tracking device placed on your car without a search warrant. Some users were quick to point out that just recently at the time GPS tracking was ruled to be legal without a warrant in the state of California, if the car was not parked in a private garage. So not only was this guy being tracked, he was also being tracked as the result of a new legislation. As his thread began to gain traction. In a further edit, our OP does mention one crucial detail, Yasir Afifi, his dad had recently passed away. He notes that the FBI at one point did reach out to his friend to ask him a few questions about his dad. Notably, his father was a Muslim religious leader. I want to note that I couldn't find anything more about his father in this entire story. This is about all we know. Many users chimed in with their advice. Some told them to throw the device away or to get a lawyer and return it to the FBI. However, at this point, the Reddit thread would go dark, unlike most Reddit threads. The OP delivered an update and about a week later quite a few articles popped up about the entire situation. Here we learn exactly what transpired with these two individuals. After this Reddit thread took place. For reference, the article I'm about to quote from is from wired.com.
"Afifi considered selling the device on Craigslist before the FBI showed up. He was in his apartment Tuesday afternoon when a roommate told him two sneaky looking people were near his car. Yasir Afifi, already heading out for an appointment, encountering a man and woman, looking at his vehicle outside, the man asked if a Afifi knew his registration tag was expired. When Afifi asked if it bothered him, the man just smiled. Afifi got into his car and headed for the parking lot exit when two SUVs pulled up with flashing lights carrying four police officers in bulletproof vests. The agent, who initially spoke with a Afifi, identified himself as Vincent and told Yasir Afifi, ("We're here to recover the device you found on your vehicle. It's federal property.
It's expensive and we need it right now."), Afifi asked.," Are you the guys that put it there?" and the agent replied, "Yeah, I put it there.", he told Afifi. "We're going to make this much more difficult if you don't cooperate." Afifi retrieved the device from his apartment and handed it over, at which point agents asked a series of questions. "Did he know anyone who traveled to Yemen or is affiliated in overseas training?" One of the agents produced a print out of a blog post that Afifi's friend Khalid allegedly wrote a couple months ago. It had something to do.
With them all or a bomb, Afifi said he hadn't seen it before, and he doesn't know the details of what it said. He found it hard to believe that Khalid meant anything threatening by the post. Keep in mind that the print out they're referring to is our op from the original post. It's Khalid. I want to point out that the FBI clearly had some interest in something else going on. Not entirely what this guy was up to because they asked about Yemen first and foremost. Another thing that's incredibly interesting is when you look into the so-called blog post, it's not a blog post.
All from Khalid, it's actually a Reddit comment, and if you actually read the context of the Reddit comment, it's not a threat whatsoever. We can actually pull up the exact same thread as it's still up today, referencing where this point comes from and take into consideration what was actually going on in the thread. In this ask Reddit thread, they ask why airports take away deodorant at security. The post reads the following, and if it's just harmless deodorant, why are you taking it from me? But no, I didn't say this aloud like.
Someone else I didn't want to say or do anything that jeopardized my flight, so I just turned around and walked towards the room after security where they just happened to sell deodorant in this Reddit thread. Here again, we see Khalid, the Gypsy, the same person who found the device on a Afifi's car as one of the top comments with nearly 1000 upvotes. To paraphrase, he's not making a bomb threat. He's pointing out how unnecessary certain things are in airports, and that it would really only take one crazy person to be a domestic threat. This entire Reddit thread is just pointing out how certain airports extort you for money. That's it. What's incredibly ironic is at the end of his individual comment, he states he's probably been bugged just for making the comment. Now, if we take a step back, we can see that the FBI's reasoning is leaving something out. Khalid was the one who made the comment, and Afifi was tracked for three to six months, and this Reddit comment was made for 3 1/2 months. So even if this was the direct reason to track his friend, what's the reason for the extra 2 1/2 months? To summarize, it doesn't make sense.
For you as a person to get tracked by the FBI for something that your friend said on Reddit thereafter, Yasir Afifi would sue the government for overstepping their bounds on the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendment rights. This case would take about five years and was later thrown out by the judge. Keep in mind this would affect Yazir's life not only from having to pay legal fees to fight this situation, but would also lead to zero fee fee to have difficulty finding work since he had run INS as a suspected person of interest, no one would want to hire him.
With this story out of the way, let's take some time to do some analysis.. My theory here is that we're likely missing some key information about the father of Yazir, Fifi. I believe the father, who was a religious leader, was likely the real person of interest and something surrounding him is what led Yazir to being tracked by way of association. I want to point out very few people have ever found a tracking device from the FBI on their car. When this slip up occurred, I have a feeling that they needed some justification as to go retrieve the device. It takes 2 seconds to realize that Khalid wasn't making a threat on that Reddit thread. And why didn't they track Khalid? Why did they track his friend? It's really really obvious that this wasn't the main reason. This is just my opinion though I obviously don't know the exact motivation behind what the FBI determines as a threat. In conclusion, this story from Reddit is incredibly unsettling. A story like this to some degree makes paranoia justifiable. This is a very rare glimpse into someone being tracked by the FBI using a GPS Tracking Device and we rarely get to see something like this. It really makes you wonder how many other people out there have been tracked and don't even realize it. If you are looking to know if you're being tracked contact Legal Eye Investigations for a free consultation on TSCM and Bug Sweeps.