Court ruling forces FBI to deactivate GPS to track suspects

FBI Director Robert Mueller
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on March 7, in Washington, DC. A recent US Supreme Court decision is hurting the ability of federal law enforcement agencies to monitor criminal suspects with global positioning satellites (GPS), according to Mueller.

A recent US Supreme Court decision is hurting the ability of federal law enforcement agencies to monitor criminal suspects with global positioning satellites (GPS), according to FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"I can't speak to the numbers, but a substantial number of trackers we have had to turn off," Mueller said Wednesday before a House of Representatives committee.

An FBI official recently said at a law school conference in San Francisco that the FBI operated about 3,000 GPS devices.

In late January, a limited the authority of police to use satellites for geolocation.

The court said police must obtain warrants before monitoring criminal suspects with GPS. Otherwise, police would infringe upon their constitutional rights of privacy.

Mueller said the ruling "is going to have an impact on the work that we do."

GPS "often saves us from physical surveillance," Mueller said. "Putting a physical surveillance team out with six, eight, 12 persons, is tremendously time-intensive."

In some cases, the FBI has lacked enough evidence to obtain warrants against terrorism suspects because of the time commitment required to gather incriminating evidence, Mueller said.

"And we are stuck in the position of surveying that person for a substantial period of time," Mueller said. GPS "trackers enabled us to utilize resources elsewhere."

The unanimous January 23 decision said GPS for tracking the movement of vehicles was an "intrusion."

The ruling resulted from a government appeal when an accused drug dealer's conviction was overturned by a lower court.

Some evidence used to convict the man was gathered with a after the warrant that authorized the satellite monitoring of his movements had expired.

As a result, the evidence could not be used to convict the defendant, the courts ruled.

Mueller said although wider use of GPS is useful to the , "We will comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court."


Explore further

Supreme Court to review warrantless GPS tracking (Update)

(c) 2012 AFP

Citation: Court ruling forces FBI to deactivate GPS to track suspects (2012, March 8) retrieved 24 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-03-court-fbi-deactivate-gps-track.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 08, 2012
Mueller said the ruling "is going to have an impact on the work that we do."

GPS "often saves us from physical surveillance," Mueller said.

"Putting a physical surveillance team out with six, eight, 12 persons, is tremendously time-intensive."


Aw shucks, Bobby --do you mean to say that you actually have to have a strong case for wrongdoing(i.e., DO YOUR JOB)to present to the court before a GPS tracking warrant is granted? I guess this means that you'll have to stick to actual law enforcement, instead of being able to track a citizen's every move without their consent, merely on someone's say so, if not entirely at whim.

What an evil day for Bobby's FBI, to be compelled to operate under the Rule of Law.



Mar 08, 2012
That's just it caliban.

Without adequate surveillance, they CAN'T do their job, because the court throws out evidence.

What kind of "justice" is that when the evidence isn't allowed in court?

Mar 09, 2012


Aw shucks, Bobby --do you mean to say that you actually have to have a strong case for wrongdoing(i.e., DO YOUR JOB)to present to the court before a GPS tracking warrant is granted? I guess this means that you'll have to stick to actual law enforcement, instead of being able to track a citizen's every move without their consent, merely on someone's say so, if not entirely at whim.

What an evil day for Bobby's FBI, to be compelled to operate under the Rule of Law.



Actually it's J. Edgar's FBI, tutu and all ;P

@Lurker: The court is just saying they actually have to do the surveillance, not just slap a gps on someones car and hope for the best, that's just a fishing expedition.

Mar 09, 2012
Wait, so they had the possibility to track people with GPS at will, and 9/11 still happened? Hmm...

Mar 09, 2012
Telling, the concentrated initiative on failing to percevie the actual meaning of the ruling. The High Court did not say law enforcement could not use GPS. They said they had to have a warrant first! That's a fine point New World Order shills regularly avoid mentioning. The court is not restricting law enforcement in wire tapping or other forms of curveillance, it only requires that they do it legally! If someone doesn't wan to have their name linked to New WQorld Order shills, they shouldn't act like one.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more