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Why Is The Federal Government Planting Microphones In Public?


A former special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations is blowing the whistle about the bureau’s practice of installing microphones in public places, including trees, courthouses, and bus stops.

Jeff Harp, a former FBI special agent and security analyst for KPIX 5 in San Francisco, recently told KPIX 5 News that FBI agents regularly hide microphones in indiscriminate locations for surveillance purposes. Harp says that between March 2010 and January 2011, FBI agents hid microphones inside light fixtures and at a bus stop outside the Oakland Courthouse without a warrant to record conversations. The FBI is reportedly attempting to catch real estate investors involved in fraud.

“They put microphones under rocks, they put microphones in trees, they plant microphones in equipment”, Harp said. “I mean, there’s microphones that are planted in places that people don’t think about, because that’s the intent!”

As Harp pointed out, “An agent can’t just go out and grab a recording device and plant it somewhere without authorization from a supervisor or special agent in charge.” The decision to plant microphones had to come from high-ranking authorities with the bureau.

One of the men accused of fraud is East Bay landlord Michael Marr. Network World reports:

Marr’s attorneys claim (pdf) the 364 recordings, or “dragnet electronic eavesdropping” conducted without judicial authorization—no warrant and no Title III order—violate the Fourth Amendment and the Wiretap Act.The defendants’ attorneys argue the secret surveillance recordings violated their clients’ constitutional rights—as well violated the rights of all the other people whose conversations were surreptitiously recorded.

In fact, the defense believes the feds “committed felonies when they planted the bugs.” Also,according to East Bay Express, defense attorneys say government prosecutors moved to withdraw the recordings as evidence so the FBI can “cut its losses and sweep its criminal conduct under the rug.”

As with other surveillance tools like the Stingray cellphone surveillance, once the feds are caught they drop the evidence so they do not have to offer an explanation. If law enforcement is not even willing to legally use these tools and provide valid reasoning to justify the use of invasive tools, what is the point of spending millions of dollars on surveillance equipment?

In Marr’s case U.S. Justice Department Attorney Kate Patchen claims(pdf) that the FBI received “audio only” from a microphone hidden in a hedge near the steps next to the Contra Costa County Finance Building. The statement say that a backpack next to a statue inside the Alameda County Courthouse, and microphones at the Fallon bus stop in Oakland and the Escobar bus stop in Martinez, were also secretly recording conversations. Two light boxes at the top and bottom of the steps of the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland also contained microphones for recording audio.  The FBI does admit to gathering audio and video from cameras hidden in three “CC vehicles in three different locations near courthouses in Martinez and Alameda County.

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This is not the first time the bureau has been caught hiding bugs near the San Mateo County courthouse. In 2015, The Recorder reported that in 2009 and 2010, the FBI hid bugs inside a metal sprinkler control box attached to the wall, and in a vehicle parked on the street.

Just last month Activist Post reported on another example of the federal government covertly installing spying equipment. In our story, ‘Why Is The Federal Government Installing Mysterious Boxes On Util..., we looked at the case of Phoenix resident Brian Clegg. Clegg was concerned about a box he witnessed being installed on a power pole. Clegg said the box was facing his house and he believed it may have had cameras inside. The pole was owned by Arizona’s largest power provider, SRP, who claimed no one had permission to put the box on their pole. Brian Clegg says shortly afterwards SRP sent a crew to remove the box.

Shortly after ABC15 investigated the matter, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives(ATF), a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice,acknowledged installing the box as part of an ongoing investigation. Officials with the ATF would not provide details about their alleged investigation and would not confirm if they were conducting surveillance in the area.

It’s about time Americans face the fact that we live in a massive surveillance state, panopticon control grid. We must also recognize that no single person, president, or law can undo the interlocking Orwellian machine that hears and sees all. It’s up to each of us as empowered individuals to stop supporting these systems and invest in new technologies that protect privacy and allow the free hearts and minds to combat the all pervading eyes and ears of Big Brother.

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