Skip to comments.(Philadelphia) Mayor Street's office bugged
Posted on 10/08/2003 7:25:27 AM PDT by South Hawthorne
|Posted on Wed, Oct. 08, 2003|
Mayor Street's office bugged
Inquirer Staff Writers
A sophisticated electronic listening device with multiple microphones was found yesterday morning hidden in the ceiling of Mayor Street's City Hall office.
Within hours, the FBI said that the eavesdropping device was not related to the mayor's race, but declined to explain how it knew that so quickly.
Pressed whether federal investigators themselves might have planted the bug, FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi said the agency "would not confirm or deny" whether that was the case.
Street emerged from his office yesterday to say: "I have done nothing wrong."
"The question that ultimately will get raised in the minds of some people is: Who's investigating the mayor's office?" Street said.
"Well, in response to that question, I want to assure the people of this city that this mayor is not being investigated."
The mayor said he had no idea who had bugged his office.
He went on to acknowledge that there could be "some kind of official investigation that could be taking place that I don't know anything about - and would have no reason to know."
Vizi would not talk in detail about the matter but did say: "We have come to the conclusion that this is not associated with the election in any way."
While refusing to say how the FBI knew this, Vizi said the FBI felt it important to tell the public that the bugging was not politically motivated because, with the election four weeks away, the campaign was "at a very critical time."
She added: "We are not giving out specific details as to where it was found, exactly what it looks like, whether it was operating or not, or anything like that, other than the fact that we will handle the matter."
The bug and the FBI's response seemed certain to add to the tension and confusion of an already overheated and close mayoral race, now in its final four weeks.
Republican mayoral candidate Sam Katz said he could make no substantive comment until he knew more.
"It's breathtakingly shocking in many ways," Katz told reporters during a campaign stop. "I'm not willing to make any comments about something that's just based on the finding of a listening device. I don't think that in and of itself says anything."
Officers from the Internal Affairs Division of the Philadelphia Police Department found the bug at 7:15 a.m. yesterday during a "sweep" of the mayor's office - City Hall Room 215 - for electronic devices. Such sweeps have been conducted periodically since the Goode administration, according to Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson.
What was found was described by one top investigator as an "extremely sophisticated" battery-powered device designed to broadcast to a remote location, such as another building or a van parked outside.
"Whoever did it was professional," an official said.
The bug was not a recording device. The base unit for the device was in the ceiling above the mayor's desk. Several remote microphones were placed in the ceiling throughout the spacious office.
The unit had enough battery power to operate for several months.
A law enforcement official said investigators believe the device was planted in the last four months. The mayor's office was last swept by Philadelphia police about June and nothing was found, the official said.
Moreover, the official said that there was evidence that a portion of the dropped ceiling had been moved since the sweep earlier this year.
Johnson said that as soon as he was told about the listening device, he called the FBI.
The agency sent agents over to examine the device. Johnson referred all other questions to the FBI.
The discovery yesterday came at a time of heightened worry in the Street camp about surveillance. About two weeks ago, the Street campaign hired a private security firm to conduct a sweep of the campaign office on Cherry Street, near 16th Street. No bugs were found.
Street spent much of yesterday afternoon in his City Hall office - a space guarded around the clock by police - huddled with Johnson.
Street later said the discovery was "certainly a concern for me."
He said he had long worried about "the kind of access that people have to City Hall" because he had seen "strange people" wandering on the second floor, where his office is.
Street said that the Police Department would conduct its own investigation, along with the FBI.
"This is a huge matter of concern for me," Street said. "You'd like to think that you have a certain amount of privacy in your own office, and when you don't, you feel violated."
In order to bug a top public official's office, legal experts said, federal prosecutors would have to receive approval from the Justice Department and a federal judge.
Prosecutors would have to persuade the judge that there was "probable cause" to believe there would be discussions about an ongoing crime, the experts said, and that they could not obtain that evidence through less-intrusive means. The order allowing such interceptions would be regularly reviewed by the authorizing judge.
The discovery of the bug comes as federal authorities have been engaged in criminal investigations related to city government, including a ticket-fixing scandal and the 2001 award of a $13.6 million airport contract to a firm with ties to the mayor's brother, T. Milton Street.
In June, the city turned over 25,000 pages of documents related to that airport contract, the City Solicitor's Office said.
Federal agents have interviewed former city officials, lawyers and business people involved with the contract, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
In the ticket scandal, the U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating whether people with political connections used that pull to have tickets fixed.
Contact staff writer Thomas J. Gibbons Jr. at 215-854-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquirer staff writers Cynthia Burton, Thomas Fitzgerald, Marcia Gelbart, Emilie Lounsberry, Ira Porter, Joseph A. Slobodzian and Joseph Tanfani contributed to this article.
Forgot to do my Phila. Election ping list. Sorry for any dupes with Trib's list.
" WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
DIVERSITY IS STRENGTH"
I have a feeling that if somebody in the FBI leaks the reason for the bug to the LA Times, they wouldn't print it.
That, I can answer. Technical Security Countermeasures is a very small field requiring very deep expertise. It can be done by a very few resources in the federal government, and by a mere handful of security firms in the nation. I don't believe any state or municipal agency can do it.
Criminal Number 18F
That is my dream as well.
So, in other words, "yes".
Hiz Honor would be smart to talk to Jimmy Tayoun about living condidtions at The Allenwood Federal Country Club. It appears that is where he will be spending a couple of years.
Or it's W (or somebody) finally showing real concern about voter fraud. I hope so.
Bernie Spindell, the wiretapping and bug security consultant for the Teamsters when Jimmy Hoffa ran that organization, was pretty well the top gun on the other side of the street, too, having caught Attorney General Robert Kennedy on bugs Bernie had planted in Marilyn's apartment.
Funny how quiet those in the business back then get when asked about the tapes from the night Monroe died. That might be something for Philly's mayor to be thinking about.