Government Surveillance In San Francisco: Hidden Microphones Planted By FBI At Bus Stops, Under Rocks

Hidden microphones have been planted in public places across the San Francisco bay area in government surveillance programs for years, according to a KPIX 5 security analyst and former FBI special agent Jeffrey Harp.

After a nearly 20-year career in the FBI, Harp recently started a position at the local CBS affiliate to “provide expert security and law enforcement consultation.” After serving as Assistant Special Agent In Charge (ASAC) in San Francisco for more than six years, he is now revealing some of the surveillance techniques he saw during his time on the force, including hidden microphone planting he says took place between March 2010 and January 2011.

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

Government surveillance hidden microphones in San Francisco

Because of the ease with which the FBI can plant microphones in hidden places throughout the city of San Francisco, Harp advises that all illegal activity be carried out in the privacy of your own home. Government surveillance, Harp says, is a constant threat.

“Speaking in a public place does not mean that the individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy…private communication in a public place qualifies as a protected ‘oral communication’… and therefore may not be intercepted without judicial authorization.”

Harp further developed this advice by arguing that it was the original intention of the Fourth Amendment — for American men and women to have somewhere to meet free from the watchful eye of the government. Such surveillance programs, he says, make that need even more pressing.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Government surveillance Hidden microphones planted by FBI at San Francisco bus stops

Harp specifically called out microphones hidden at a bus stop outside the Oakland Courthouse in order to gather information about an upcoming trial involving San Mateo and Alameda county real estate investors. The parties are accused of bid rigging and fraud, a charge that some of their associates have already pled guilty to, reported the FBI.

Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of the FBI’s San Francisco Division said that his agency would be continuing to bring their efforts to the case.

“The FBI continues to work closely with the Antitrust Division to target those individuals who engage in fraudulent bid rigging and other anticompetitive activities at foreclosure auctions. We are committed to bringing to justice those who engage in illegal and unfair practices that adversely impact legitimate home buyers and sellers.”

While Harp’s claims are jarring, it’s not even the first time this exact instance of warrantless surveillance has been brought to the public’s attention. A letter was sent to the U.S. Justice Department attorney Kate Patchen that also named the microphones hidden by the FBI in San Francisco, reported East Bay Express.

“At the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, the FBI planted hidden microphones inside light fixtures on the courthouse’s exterior steps to capture the conversations of people attending the foreclosure auctions. Cameras and microphones were installed in parked Alameda County vehicles next to the courthouse. The FBI even hid a microphone in the AC Transit bus stop on Fallon Street, and dropped a bugged backpack next to a statue inside the courthouse.”

What do you think about the San Francisco FBI’s government surveillance hidden microphones?

[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]