FBI reads Reddit, tracks Redditor without warrant

om6neLast week, a guy on Reddit posted a photo of a weird device that was found strapped beneath his roommate’s car. (A mechanic had found it while working on the car.) Well, it turned out to be a tracking device, and the FBI has since asked for the unit back. It would seem that the young man who owned the car, had come to the attention of the FBI after posting the following on Reddit:

khaledthegypsy 874 points 3 months ago[-]
bombing a mall seems so easy to do. i mean all you really need is a bomb, a regular outfit so you arent the crazy guy in a trench coat trying to blow up a mall and a shopping bag. i mean if terrorism were actually a legitimate threat, think about how many fucking malls would have blown up already.. you can put a bag in a million different places, there would be no way to foresee the next target, and really no way to prevent it unless CTU gets some intel at the last minute in which case every city but LA is fucked…so…yea…now i’m surely bugged : /

It seems like a fairly innocuous statement to me. And I doubt that, had I pointed out the obvious fact that setting off bombs at shopping malls would be easy, the FBI would be tracking me. But, then again, my name isn’t Khaled, and my dad wasn’t a religious leader in the Mulsim community. (The roommate who left the initial post on Reddit mentions that his friend’s father, who had recently passed away, was a Muslim religious leader.)

Leaving aside for a moment whether or not the FBI was justified in flagging this individual as a potential terrorist threat based on such seemingly scant evidence, I find it quite unnerving that they can, without a warrant, come onto your property and place a tracking device on your vehicle. And, yes, it looks as though, at least according to this recent column in Time, the FBI does in fact have the legal right, based on rulings of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, to track you in the western United States. Here’s a clip:

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant…

It’s likely that the subject of warrantless tracking will be heard by the Supreme Court soon. But, given the current makeup of the high court, I’m not terribly encouraged that they’ll do the right thing.

[Tonight’s post is brought to you courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, channelling foreign money into U.S. elections on behalf of Republican candidates with the help of the Supreme Court since 2010.]

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  1. FFT
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of the Chamber funneling money to Republican ads, I just got the following from Move On.

    This is an urgent request.

    News just broke that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—one of the biggest sources of corporate cash backing Republicans this year—has been using money from foreign corporations in India, Bahrain, and elsewhere to fund its attack ads, in apparent violation of the law.

    This explosive news could shift the course of the election if the Chamber is forced to scale back and all the right-wing candidates they’re helping have to answer for this.

    The Chamber knows that. Their strategy is to give no quarter and hope this blows over. In the last week they’ve actually spent millions more on ads targeted against progressive heroes including Russ Feingold.

    So we’ve been up working overnight on a new emergency ad campaign aimed at those Republicans who’ve been benefiting from the Chamber’s help and evidently from its foreign funding—and aimed at forcing the Chamber to reveal its secret contributors. We can launch these ads immediately to keep this story from dying.

    This is a huge opportunity but it wasn’t in our election plan—so we need to raise $350,000 right away to do it. Can you contribute $5?


    The Chamber claims that it has internal systems to keep the money separate, but the new report shows that the foreign corporations donate directly to the Chamber’s general fund, which is where the funding for their political attacks comes from. This would represent a shocking disregard for longstanding American campaign finance laws, all to advance a corporate, right-wing agenda of outsourcing jobs and giving huge tax breaks to multi-national corporations.

    According to the report, the Chamber is allegedly raising money from firms in “China, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Russia, and many other places.” Even Russian banks and state-owned oil companies in Abu Dhabi may have contributed.

    The Chamber is spending more than any other group to back right-wing Republicans and attack progressives in the election. We need to fight back, and we’re ready to leap into action—but first we need to know if we have enough funds.

    Can you contribute $5 immediately?


    Thanks for all you do.

    –Michael, Tim, Duncan, Marika, and the rest of the team

  2. Mr. X
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Al Frankin wants the Chamber investigated.


  3. Knox
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    This is seriously scary stuff, but not really all that surprising, given the number of people we now employ to listen in on our calls and monitor our online activity. We’re a very fearful country, and we’re just getting what we’ve asked for. Pathetic, isn’t it?

  4. Edward
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    In another 10 years, they’ll be shoving tracking devices up our asses, which, of course, will be alright, as long as we’re asleep.

  5. Robert
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a lot of conspiracy theory nuttery to me. Take your tin foil hats off folks. Stop drinking the coolaide everybody…etc., etc.

  6. Edward
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    The FBI has admitted to it, Robert. They’ve asked for their device back, and they claim not to have broken any laws.

  7. Robert
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey! The FBI reads Reddit! Maybe they’ll be interested in looking into that recent kidnapping of US military personnel from that gas station on eight mile, Mark. That would be their job after all.

  8. Robert
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh sure, Edward. Next thing you’ll be telling me most of the 9/11 commission claims there was a cover-up.

  9. Edward
    Posted October 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Why are you so convinced that this is fake, Robert. I think it’s pretty straight forward. And I don’t think that it’s all that far fetched to think that the FBI would attempt to track the car of someone with ties to the Muslim community who has made online comments about terrorist attacks. Personally, I think it’s good that he’s on their radar. I don’t like, however, the thought that they can track our cars without warrants.

  10. Robert
    Posted October 12, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Next, Edward, I’m sure you’ll be telling me how the FBI is convinced that Congressman Bono was assassinated by four individuals observed on video fleeing the scene of his death, and that the investigation stalled when they were unable to identify any of the individuals.

  11. Meta
    Posted October 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Think Progress released the following today.

    Since ThinkProgress.org reported on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s foreign sources of funding last week, the media appears to have been confused about the report due to the spin coming from the right. Here are the facts that our report established: 1) The Chamber gladly accepts money from foreign companies, and the Chamber acknowledges that fact. 2) Those funds go into a general 501(c)(6) account, and the Chamber acknowledges that fact. 3) The Chamber refuses to disclose its system for ensuring foreign money is not influencing our elections, and the Chamber claims, “We are not obligated to discuss our internal procedures.” While the Chamber claims that it does not use foreign funds to finance its election ads — which is illegal — thus far, the corporate lobby has refused to offer any proof to alleviate the concerns raised by the ThinkProgress report. Lawmakers and outside groups have called for investigations into whether the Chamber is using foreign money to fund campaign ads. Even President Obama weighed in last week. “Groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections. And they won’t tell you where the money for the ads come from,” the President said. “This is a threat to our democracy.”

    WHAT WE KNOW: The Chamber receives funding from three foreign sources: 1) Foreign-based corporations, 2) Business Councils that operate out of the Chamber’s Washington, DC headquarters to solicit foreign donations, and 3) independently-run AmChams that are based overseas. Most of the Chamber’s foreign sources of funding come from large multi-national corporations which are headquartered abroad, like BP and Siemens. Business Councils in Bahrain and India have raised at least $300,000 in direct contributions to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) account. And “AmChams” are a red herring, as we explain in the next paragraph. There is no oversight of the Chamber’s money flow — something the Chamber fought successfully to prevent. “Money, however, is fungible,” a Times editorial explained last week, “and it is impossible for an outsider to know whether the group is following its rules.” The Chamber claims that it has a “system” in place to prevent foreign funds from being used for its political attack ads, but it refuses to disclose what exactly that system is or how it works. “To me, there is absolutely no doubt that this is a back-door way to get around what are long-standing and legitimate restrictions,” Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute said when asked about the Chamber’s dubious funding, adding that regulations “are being flouted and abused even as we speak.”

    IT’S NOT ABOUT ‘AMCHAMS’:The Chamber has offered only a sliver of disclosure on the matter, saying that its foreign chapters, called “AmChams,” pay “nominal dues” to the Chamber — approximately $100,000 total across all 115 AmChams, thus suggesting that any foreign money coming to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) account is minuscule. This whitewash campaign — started by the Chamber, picked up by the right wing, and filtered through to the mainstream media — is beginning to cloud the primary issue with the Chamber’s foreign funding: namely, that undisclosed monies from foreign entities may be funding its political attack ads. Right wingers such as Karl Rove and the Media Research Center have picked up and amplified the Chamber’s narrative, which migrated to the Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times. All of them published stories largely dismissing the main concerns about the Chamber’s foreign sources of funding, choosing to focus instead on the “AmChams.” The Times even disregarded the thrust of the ThinkProgress report as part of the “Washington spin cycle.” The Times and Post stories have since provided cover for the rest of the Beltway media and right-wing talking heads. “The New York Times looked into the Chamber specifically and said the Chamber really isn’t putting foreign money into the campaign,” CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer said on Sunday. That it does charge its foreign affiliates dues that bring in less than a hundred thousand dollars a year,” he said. Using a neologism invented by Sarah Palin, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie said later in the program that the Times and Post “both completely ‘refudiated’ this charge of foreign money being funneled through the Chamber of Commerce into American campaigns.”

    HOW TO PUT IT TO REST: It’s vitally important the public is informed about who are special interests paying for the TV advertisements that are trying to affect the outcome of U.S. elections. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews explained the danger yesterday. Big corporations “engage in outsourcing. They send jobs overseas. They outsource their supply lines overseas. They do everything they can to screw the working person and make more money,” he said, adding, “Where do they get their money? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gets money from those very sources and uses it to elect people in Congress who will support that enterprise of shifting jobs overseas, cost cutting, eliminating the American workforce.” The Chamber is currently advocating for tax loopholes that send American jobs overseas and its CEO Tom Donahue has said that outsourcing has been good for Americans. Indeed, just this week, the Chamber is using that money to air an unprecedented $10 million in political ads this week alone. In an interview with ABC News, White House senior adviser David Axelrod succinctly noted the main concern about foreign funding to the Chamber. “What we don’t know is where the millions of dollars — $75 million — is coming from that they are using to fund these campaigns,” Axelrod said, asking, “And the question back to them keeps coming back from us and others is why not simply say? What is it that is so nefarious about the sources of their money that they won’t reveal it?” “This isn’t a hard thing,” Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum wrote on Sunday, adding, “Either money from overseas goes into the Chamber’s general fund, which is the same fund used to buy attack ads on Democrats, or it doesn’t. All the Chamber has to do is demonstrate the latter and this will all go away. So what’s the holdup?” However, the Chamber is refusing any transparency. “We are not obligated to discuss our internal accounting procedures,” Chamber spokesperson Tita Freeman told the Washington Post last week. David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund said, “They basically say, ‘trust us’ when there’s mounting evidence they’re outsourcing the funding of their political attacks ads? Yeah, right.”

  12. John Galt
    Posted October 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    The freedom to be surveiled upon is our God given right, and I would gladly ingest a Freedom Tracker if it allowed our beloved military leaders to better protect the constitution.

  13. Robert
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I was just messing around, Edward. Sorry, I was trying to be sarcastic and funny. I obviously failed. I apologize to you because you are one of the very few people on this blog who I don’t absolutely loathe.

  14. dragon
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I apologize to you because you are one of the very few people on this blog who I don’t absolutely loathe.

    Vilifying with contemptuous pity; when damning with faint praise is just too complimentary.

  15. Robert
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Speak of the devil.

  16. Edward
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    The Supreme court did something good today and ruled unanimously, “that law enforcement authorities need a probable-cause warrant from a judge to affix a GPS device to a vehicle and monitor its every move.”


  17. Brainless
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Reddit found you:

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