Capitol Alert

July 10, 2014

About that FBI wifi network on your cell phone...

Perhaps you’ve roamed the Capitol grounds and noticed that your smart phone picked up this wifi network: “FBI mobile surveillance.”

Capitol Alert

The go-to source for news on California policy and politics

Perhaps you’ve roamed the Capitol grounds and noticed that your smart phone picked up this wifi network: “FBI mobile surveillance.”

Perhaps the listing jogged nervous memories of the FBI’s recent undercover stings on the state Capitol, the ones that involved secretly recorded conversations of agents offering bribes to state Sens. Leland Yee and Ron Calderon. The two Democrats were indicted earlier this year in separate cases alleging corruption, money laundering and conspiracy to traffic weapons.

Chris Russo can allay your fears.

He owns Russo’s Shoe Repair, across the street from the Capitol. Russo said he got tired of people pulling on his Internet service and slowing it down. So he changed his wifi network name from “Shoes” to “FBI mobile surveillance.”

Now?

“Nobody tries to hack into my wifi,” Russo said.

The FBI wouldn’t say whether it ever uses a wifi network name as obvious as “FBI mobile surveillance.”

“We don’t talk about our tools and techniques,” said Gina Swankie, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Sacramento office.

But former federal prosecutor Bill Portanova said FBI agents are smarter than that.

“They wouldn’t ever alert everyone in the neighborhood that they are doing mobile surveillance,” said Portanova, who is on contract as a criminal defense lawyer for the state Senate.

That doesn’t mean, though, that they’re not listening to folks around the Capitol.

“Based on what we’ve seen in the last year, it’s a given that the FBI is still there and that they are doing all kinds of investigations,” Portanova said. “In my experience, all such investigations include electronic monitoring.”

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