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Bug Sweeps & TSCM
By David Rich, Owner, InvestigativeTactics.net
As with many things Licensed Private Investigators deal with, bug sweeps (also known as Technical Surveillance Counter Measures/TSCM) are a case of either having very long experience through government training & service or a lot of on the job training after continuing research. In summary; the Investigator has to know what they are looking for and at.
Can the public go to Radio Shack or eBay and buy their own equipment? Sure. However, there are many types of “detectors” out there; some have merit when used correctly; others are less than quality (you definitely get what you pay for). A colleague of ours on the east coast of Florida has been doing high level TSCM sweeps for years; his equipment costs well over $15,000 for each piece (with the software) and require extensive training to understand and operate correctly. But, for that price and extensive experience and training, he can normally detect electronics built into walls, even if they are not transmitting anything.
Our company, Investigative Tactics, offers what I call ‘mid-level’ sweeps. Depending on the specific situation and what the client thinks is happening, I may use a quality frequency counter, sometimes combined with other tools specific for the job, as well as a “hard” search of the area not assuming anything. One should keep in mind the frequencies of the common publicly available devices out these days; 2.4 GHz, 5.6 GHz and so forth. A good frequency counter will detect these cordless phones and other devices. When using a the frequency counter, make sure all WiFi, cordless phones, cell phones, and even the kitchen microwaves are turned off, as they all emit radio frequencies. The “hard” search is very time consuming, but in the end, it is very effective at finding passive devices and probably the best method, assuming the Investigator searching knows what they are looking for & at.
If something is found, I recommend photographing it extensively exactly as found, before removal. Once removed, begin a Chain of Custody form for the evidence, and keep it secured in a locked area of which only the Evidence Custodian in your firm has the key (this is in case the contraband ends up as trial evidence years later).
Since wiretapping is a felony in most jurisdictions (Florida State Statute 934.03), if the plan is to call law enforcement if/when something is found, make sure to photograph it (without touching), and then let the law enforcement officers remove and secure the evidence so the criminal case isn’t jeopardized. Keep in mind, regardless if the situation is under the jurisdiction of civil or criminal law, an unbiased Licensed/Private Investigator is a much better choice than someone party to the situation.