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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Big Brother watches college student, college student catches Big Brother.

Published: October 15, 2010
Section: Opinions

Not too long ago, a college student in California found what appeared to be a tracking device in the undercarriage of his car. His suspicions proved right when the FBI showed up in force to demand their device back. The student complied with the request and did not make any trouble. The FBI asked some questions and left telling him, “You don’t need to call your lawyer. Don’t worry, you’re boring.”

It seems that this device was put on the student’s car without a warrant. Unfortunately for civil rights, the United States ninth circuit court of appeals has recently ruled that this is perfectly legal; law enforcement can even trespass onto a private driveway without a warrant to do this.

What happened to civil liberties?

I read “1984” (and if you haven’t, you should) and I never really bought into the whole “Big Brother is watching you” craziness. But this is a very big step towards the very terrifying world of the book.

Another odd thing is the way in which the FBI went about getting the device back.

The student was surrounded by law enforcement as he attempted to leave his apartment complex. An agent who identified himself as “Vincent” allegedly told the student, “We’re going to make this much more difficult for you if you don’t cooperate.”

Last I checked, it’s finders keepers. I’m not saying simply that finding something with no discernible signs of ownership means that something automatically becomes yours, but to use a show of force to get something back, something that should never have been found, is just overkill. The person who placed the device on the student’s car should certainly have gotten fired, or burned as intelligence lingo goes. To be hostile to someone who innocently finds something just doesn’t make sense.

If I were to find something attached to my car, I certainly wouldn’t surrender it without some type of repayment. I’m no car expert. For all I know, if something odd is attached to my car it was something left by the previous owner, and would be mine to do with as I pleased.

I highly doubt the FBI intended to get caught; I assume they rarely do. Even so, it does not seem right that American citizens should bear the burden of fixing the FBI’s mistakes. Sure the tracker was expensive, but if anything, they should be giving the person who attached it hell rather than the guy who found it.

I know that the FBI investigates within the country. I know it’s important to the general security that attempts to keep us safe (unless it’s all a load of nonsense which I sincerely hope isn’t the case.) The thing is if I caught Big Brother watching me through a small eye-hole, I’d be sorely tempted to use some pepper spray rather than just go about my day.