Last month the US Supreme Court ruled that GPS tracking of suspect’s vehicles could not happen without a warrant. This month the FBI has disabled a large number of GPS tracking devices in response to that ruling.
Back at the end of January the Supreme Court ruled that in order for the FBI to use a GPS tracking device on a suspect they must obtain a warrant. That ruling was unanimous and declared that Fourth Amendment protection of “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” would be directly violated if GPS tracking without a warrant was allowed.
In response, Andrew Weissmann, general counsel for the FBI, announced that about 3,000 GPS tracking devices were to be disabled. A recent Wall Street Journal report quoted Weissmann as saying the ruling prompted a “sea of change” at the Justice Department.
Weissmann indicated that the FBI was having a bit of trouble retrieving some of the devices that had already been planted on suspect vehicles. In those situations the FBI sought court orders to allow them to turn on the tracking devices briefly so that they could be located and removed.
Weissmann also stated that the FBI was developing new guidelines about how and when to use GPS tracking devices as well as guidelines to cover the broader implications of this court ruling.