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FBI State of the Art?

2010-10-13 16:25:04.447226+00 by ebradway 6 comments

Sean posted this Wired piece about a second generation US citizen finding an FBI tracking device under his car. The aftermath of his posting pictures of the device on Facebook is especially telling.

What really amazes me is the size of this device. It's freakin' huge! I would expect that a covert GPS tracking device could be the size of a cell phone (GPS+Comm channel+battery) or even something like an Eye-Fi Geo and a lithium button cell (and just cache data and upload when an open WiFi network is present). Not to mention either of those solutions would be under $100 - definitely not worth retrieving.

It really makes me wonder if it was really more Security Theater. What the incident is really trying to tell the real bad guys:

  1. The FBI's covert tracking equipment is really unwieldy (meaning you don't need to bother looking very hard to find it).
  2. The FBI is putting a great deal of effort into monitoring even the fringe of what anyone would consider a terrorist (dude's a second gen American citizen) so they must be intensely focused on the REAL bad guys.
  3. The FBI iz in UR Fazebuk, reedin' UR wawl.

[ related topics: Interactive Drama Wireless Photography broadband Theater & Plays Law Enforcement Automobiles Maps and Mapping ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-14 21:31:26.09538+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've got a high school friend who's in the FBI, we've reconnected via Facebook, and, similarly, I refuse to underestimate individuals.

There may be aspects of the bureaucracy that keep some of those individuals performing at full capacity, and there may also be a whole bunch of bozos in the organization as well, but they've got at least one, or, by petronius's anecdote two, pretty sharp guys.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-14 20:58:41.838593+00 by: petronius

I dunno about FBI agents being dummies. My wife used to work with a lady whose husband was the chief local fraud investigator for Health and Human Services, who spent most of his time tracking medicare and social Security crookedness. He was an extremely charming Irishman, an ex-FBI agent, who had spent a few years in Venezuela as an "advisor" on police administration. My radar went into overdrive on that, having seen State of Siege Two things about the guy: he spoke incredible Spanish, the kind you learn at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey from native speakers, and after you had a charming evening with him you realized that somehow he had learned 5 times as much about you as you learned from him. It was very impressive, and i refuse to underestimate FBI agents after that.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-14 03:45:53.117141+00 by: ebradway

  1. That's essentially the story my father, a career Air Force vet, gave when asked if the government had UFOs. Basically, they are too incompetent to keep that big of a secret for that long.

petronis & Dan: That was basically my point. The over sized gear and the charades in recovering it was just to make the bad buys think the FBI's equipment is all klunky and that they are spreading a wide net. As opposed to, what I hope, is more realistic. Their gear is at least as good as I could assemble off the shelf and that they are focused on what are really the bad guys.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-13 19:33:15.347226+00 by: m

On one level I hope petronius is right.

I knew one FBI agent -- family member by marriage, and would occasionally meet others who he brought to family holiday functions. I was not impressed with the special agents. One tried to do a disappearing cigarette trick, and burned a big hole in his jacket. The rest were not much better.

Given the stories of Hansen, Whitehurst, the anthrax attacks, et al, there seems little chance that the FBI is much more than the Keystone Kops on a national level.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-13 19:30:21.955226+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've seen a couple of theories:

  1. They've got old equipment that'd just be sitting on a shelf and rather than let it rust they use it.
  2. The discovery of the device is as (or more) important than the tracking. It's a way of saying "you're being watched".
  3. Yes, the FBI iz in UR Fazebuk. A friend of several of us here on Flutterby started a company that developed software to help non-profits track donor's social media patterns to maximize donations. Last time we got together he mentioned that his biggest customers were three letter agencies.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-13 18:16:58.999226+00 by: petronius

Maybe the real tracker is only the size of a bobby pin, and the big one is just to make you THINK you found it!