Afifi wants his congressman's help with FBI bug
Yasir Afifi, the young Arab American in California who discovered an FBI tracking device on his car, hopes his local congressman, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), will help him find out why he was being followed.
Afifi’s attorney told SpyTalk Tuesday night that she was drafting a letter to Honda asking him to meet personally with her client and then hopefully “put some pressure on the FBI to explain its practices.”
Honda’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week Afifi retained Zahar Billoo, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, an advocacy group, to represent him. Earlier reports suggesting that the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California was taking his case were erroneous.
The ACLU, joined by the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly, filed a lawsuit back in August to expedite the release of FBI records on the investigation and surveillance of Muslim communities in the Bay Area.
Billoo said in a telephone interview that she was also preparing a Freedom of Information Act request for FBI documents related to her client, but she conceded she did not expect to receive anything revelatory in the near future, if ever.
Government documents related to national security issues are notoriously difficult to obtain and often released with most of their text blacked out.
Billoo maintains that the FBI’s electronic monitoring of Affifi was “unreasonable” and “an invasion of his privacy.”
The FBI, she charged, was “wasting tax dollars” by tracking Affifi and “not pursuing serious suspects.”
The San Francisco FBI office has declined to comment on the matter, "because it’s still an ongoing investigation," according to Wired magazine, which broke the story of the tracking device last week.
The FBI’s interest in Afifi may stem from his father, a U.S. citizen and former president of the local Muslim Community Association who moved his family to Egypt in 2003, Wired said.
Afifi, now 20, returned to the United States alone in 2008 to continue his studies, according to reports. Now an international sales manager of laptops and computers for Cal Micro in San Jose, he travels often, Wired’s Kim Zetter reported. When FBI agents showed up at his home to demand the tracking device back, they indicated that they knew he was planning a trip to Dubai.
Billoo said whatever the FBI’s suspicions about Afifi, it should be required to obtain a warrant to place a tracking device on his car.
“Whether they can surveil him like that is a gray area of the law,” she said.
Indeed, California’s Ninth Circuit court recently ruled that no warrant is required for tracking devices, while the D.C. circuit said that it is. The matter is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court, legal observers said.
In the meantime, Afifi may well find a strong ally in Honda, a five-term liberal Democrat who has a strong record on civil liberties.
| October 13, 2010; 1:43 PM ET
Categories: Homeland Security, Intelligence, Justice/FBI
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