FBI Uses Cell Phone Mics as New Eavesdropping Tool

CNET News is reporting on a new use of cell phone mics by the FBI as eavesdropping devices. The FBI is using a “roving bug” technology that allows them to remotely activate a user’s cell phone mic to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The “roving bug” technology allows for eavesdropping even in surveillance situations where the user’s cell phone is powered off.

From CNET News —

The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone’s microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The technique is called a “roving bug,” and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

Nextel cell phones owned by two alleged mobsters, John Ardito and his attorney Peter Peluso, were used by the FBI to listen in on nearby conversations. The FBI views Ardito as one of the most powerful men in the Genovese family, a major part of the national Mafia.

The surveillance technique came to light in an opinion published this week by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. He ruled that the “roving bug” was legal because federal wiretapping law is broad enough to permit eavesdropping even of conversations that take place near a suspect’s cell phone.

Kaplan’s opinion said that the eavesdropping technique “functioned whether the phone was powered on or off.” Some handsets can’t be fully powered down without removing the battery; for instance, some Nokia models will wake up when turned off if an alarm is set.

Source: FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool