By Matthew Rothschild on October 14, 2010

When a 20-year-old Arab American named Yasir Afifi took his car in to get an oil change recently, his mechanic found something unusual: an electronic GPS tracking device attached near the right rear wheel. The mechanic removed it and gave it to Afifi.

A couple days later, two people showed up outside his apartment and started to inspect the car, according to Wired.com, which broke this story.

Afifi went out and got in his car and tried to drive away but was soon pulled over by two SUVs with flashing lights.

As Wired reported, one FBI agent identified himself and told Afifi: “We’re here to recover the device you found on your vehicle. It’s federal property. It’s an expensive piece, and we need it right now.”

 Afifi gave it to them without incident. He told Wired there’s no reason the FBI should be spying on him since he’s done nothing wrong. Afifi’s attorney, Zahra Billoo, calls the FBI’s actions “outrageous.” Billoo, who is also a staffer with the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, adds: “My initial reaction was puzzlement at how strange it was. The irresponsibility of the FBI about who they’re choosing to track—plus the whole ‘give it back to us, it’s ours’—baffled the mind.” She says this is “an extraordinary case” especially because of Afifi’s courage in challenging it, which she applauds. “Going up against the FBI is frightening,” she says. Billoo puts this latest incident in context. “Our office averages about one new complaint each week about FBI contacts,” she says, noting that the complaints are coming in at a much higher rate than last year. “The FBI will visit individual employers. And that’s really frightening because it’s your livelihood. Or the FBI will go to neighbors and friends and ask about you.” The FBI’s actions in Afifi’s case, she says, “was absolutely unreasonable and unwarranted.” Afifi and Billoo are requesting the assistance of their Representative, Mike Honda, Democrat of California, to get the FBI to come clean on this incident, according to Jeff Stein of the Washington Post. Billoo confirms the outreach to Rep. Honda. “Our country is acting in hysteria, and it makes us all the less safe when you go after people who are innocent like this,” says Billoo, adding that it might make members of the Muslim American community less inclined to cooperate with the FBI. The kicker is that this FBI spying may now be legal, after an August ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision said law enforcement officers don’t need a warrant to plant a GPS recording device on your car, even if it’s in your own driveway. So next time you take your car into the shop, you might want your mechanic to take a good, hard look.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his other "McCarthyism Watch" pieces by clicking here.

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

 

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Capitalism is the enemy, and the ideology of growth and dominion over the Earth.

 

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John Kerry used two weak arguments to justify President Obama’s war-making.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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