FBI TacOps agent reveals how Mar-a-Lago could have been bugged

EXCLUSIVE: Sedating guard dogs, hiding in fake bushes and staging bogus traffic accidents or breakdowns: These are the shady tactics the FBI’s top-secret ‘TacOps’ unit could have used to ‘bug Mar-a-Lago’ without Trump’s team being any the wiser

  • DailyMail.com can reveal the shady and eyebrow-raising tactics the FBI would have employed in order to plant surveillance devices at a subject’s property 
  • Former president Donald Trump’s camp has claimed the bureau may have bugged his Mar-a-Lago estate during their surprise raid earlier this month 
  • Louis E. Grever formerly served as the head of its Tactical Operations (TacOps) – a secret unit of break-in artists who conduct court-authorized entries
  • Speaking to investigative reporter Ronald Kessler, Grever revealed agents could tranquilize guard dogs and even stage fake traffic accidents to waylay occupants
  • In some cases, the FBI could offer bogus prizes such as free trips or dinners to get occupants to leave a targeted home so agents can plant listening devices
  • ‘We give people opportunities to travel and do exotic things,’ Grever said. ‘That wasn’t luck. That was us, trying to present an opportunity’

Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the New York Times bestselling author of ‘The Secrets of the FBI’ and ‘In the President’s Secret Service’ 

Members of former president Donald Trump’s team have claimed the FBI may have bugged his Mar-a-Lago estate during their surprise raid of the property earlier this month. 

However, if the FBI had done so, it is highly unlikely anyone on the Trump team would know it. 

To plant bugging devices and conduct electronic surveillance, the FBI uses Tactical Operations (TacOps), a super-secret unit of break-in artists who conduct court-authorized burglaries in homes, offices, and even embassies to install hidden microphones and video cameras and to snoop into computers.

The targets could range from mafia figures, to corrupt members of Congress, to spies, white collar criminals, or Russian or Chinese intelligence officers – and even former US presidents.

When conducting covert entries, TacOps tranquilizes guard dogs and may stage fake traffic accidents or utility breakdowns to waylay occupants and security personnel. 

Former president Donald Trump’s camp has claimed the FBI may have bugged his Mar-a-Lago estate during their surprise raid at the property earlier this month

Armed Secret Service agents stand outside a Mar-a-Lago entrance point after the FBI raid on August 8. DailyMail.com can reveal the secret shady tactics the FBI’s Tactical Operations unit could use to plant listening devices on a target

A former TacOps director told DailyMail.com that if the FBI had planted bugs, it is highly unlikely anyone on the Trump team would know it

To conceal agents as they defeat locks and alarm systems, the unit creates false fronts to houses and fake bushes to hide them.

If caught breaking in, TacOps agents are in danger of being shot by occupants who think they are burglars.

In a scenario involving an embassy, DailyMail.com can reveal the covert steps taken by agents to ensure a smooth operation over weeks of planning.  

For weeks beforehand, TacOps agents will conduct surveillance to see who goes in and out of the embassy. 

If a dog is on the premises, agents will photograph it and show the photo to a veterinarian on contract.

‘We will provide the vet with pictures and a description of the dog in question,’ Louis E. Grever, who served as the head of TacOps as the FBI’s executive assistant for the science and technology branch, told me for my book ‘The Secrets of the FBI.’

‘He’ll look at their size and age, and he will tell us the potion to mix for them. We carry a kit with all of the narcotics and the sedatives. 

‘The point is certainly not to kill the dog because that poses a risk of being found out,’ Grever said.

At the end of the search, FBI agents will shoot another dart into the dog with a stimulant to wake it up.

On the night of a break-in at an embassy, FBI agents will be stationed at the homes of anyone who works at the embassy. 

To prevent workers from returning unexpectedly, agents may issue them a ticket while dressed in a police uniform or open a fire hydrant near the embassy to close off traffic in the area.

If the FBI needs a simple wiretap of a land line phone or cell phone, or an intercept of an email account, technicians in the FBI’s Operational Technology Division will deal directly with the provider. 

Louis E. Greve the FBI’s executive assistant for its science and technology branch, lifted the lid on the unit’s covert operations during his time as the head of the TacOps 

Former president Donald Trump said he will be filing a legal motion claiming his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago on August 8

FBI agents with a search warrant raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, on August 8 in search of documents he allegedly took from the White House 

Usually, the phone company can install a court-ordered wiretap within minutes by entering the target number in its computers and transmitting the conversation over an encrypted broadband link to any FBI field office. 

However, if a physical entry is required, TacOps takes over.

Agents on the TacOps teams have what are called deep aliases, meaning that if someone runs a check on their driver’s license or social security number, the appropriate agencies would confirm their fictional identity.

When breaking into homes and offices to plant bugs, TacOps agents try to avoid using rear doors, which could be booby-trapped since they are rarely used. 

So in the case of a Philadelphia electronics supply company that was a front for an organized crime drug gang’s hangout, TacOps agents decided to walk in through the front door to carry out their operation. 

Agents decided the best time for entry would be between midnight and 2am. 

After that, trash collectors began their pickups and could see agents breaking in. 

The only problem was that across the street was a bar with outdoor seating. Patrons of the bar would spot the FBI team defeating the locks and disarming the alarm system at the front door.

So TacOps agents borrowed a city bus and rode to the electronics supply company. 

They parked the bus at the front door and pretended it had broken down.

As the FBI agent who was driving the bus lifted the hood, blocking onlookers from seeing the agents scramble out to work on the locks and break in.

During the raid, several boxes of material were removed from Mar-a-Lago

At the Engineering Research Facility in Quantico, Virginia, FBI agents arrange wiretaps of phone conservations and make custom-designed bugging devices, sensors, and surveillance cameras to watch and record targets

Once the agents were in the target building, the bus drove off. When the agents had finished installing electronic bugs, the bus returned to pick them up. But the bus whizzed past two inebriated customers from the bar who were waiting at a nearby bus stop. 

When the bus stopped in front of the business, the two angry patrons ran for the bus and jumped in. Since the agents were from different offices, they thought at first that the two men were part of their operation.

‘We get a couple blocks away, we start peeling off our equipment,’ said Grever, who was on the TacOps teams as what he calls a ‘government-sanctioned burglar’ for 12 years before being named the FBI’s executive assistant director.

‘We’ve all got weapons on and radio gear, and these two guys are kind of sitting there going, “What the hell?” They start ringing the bell. Ding, ding! They want to get off. Ding, ding!

‘Now the bus driver, who was from the local office, was not a very good bus driver. I think he practiced for like 20 minutes driving this bus. He was knocking over garbage cans when he made turns. He yells back, “Hey, quit playing with the bell! I’m having a hard enough time driving the bus!”

Other agents on the bus began to realize that the two men ringing to get off were not with the FBI after all. 

Before each job, all the agents meet each other, and now it seemed clear that these two were unwitting imposters.

‘One of our guys got up, and he just happened to have a shotgun hanging on the strap on his back,’ Grever said. ‘He walks over to them and goes, “Do we know you?”

Now, Grever said, ‘They’re really ringing that bell. Ding ding ding ding ding! And we realize these guys are not with us. So we yell up, “Hey Phil, stop the bus! We’ve got a couple of riders here!”

Protesters hold signs reading, ‘Stop the great reset now’ and ‘Trump 2024’ following the FBI’s raid on former president’s Mar-A-Lago home

Trump has been fuming since the unprecedented raid, which has appeared to trigger support for the former president 

The driver turned around, took one look at the patrons, and realized they were not agents. Swearing, he pulled over and opened the doors.

‘They get out, and we never hear a word from them,’ Grever said. ‘They had no clue what was going on. They just happened to get on the wrong bus.’

In another incident, agents came prepared to snare a dog inside the home of a major organized crime figure, but as soon as they caught the dog, a cat ran out.

‘Cat just left exit, running west through the alley,’ an agent radioed. ‘Described as gray in color, about 15 pounds.’

‘Roger, we’re on it,’ an agent radioed back.

Using night vision goggles, agents fanned out around the neighborhood looking for the missing cat. After an hour, an agent radioed, ‘Cat’s in custody.’

The agents placed the cat in the house. But the dog began barking, while the cat hissed.

‘You all did everything perfectly,’ an agent monitoring the house told the TacOps agents later that morning. ‘With one exception: wrong cat.’

When the occupants of the home returned from a trip the next day, they discovered a strange cat in their house.

‘The last thing these people think is that someone broke into their house, let their cat out, put another cat in there, and then left without taking anything,’ Grever points out.

‘So they explained it to themselves by saying their cat must have gotten out through a small door that allowed the dog to go outside. They thought this other cat must have gotten in the house the same way, and they wrote it off as pretty normal.’

The three-page itemized list of property seized in the execution of a search warrant by the FBI at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is seen after being released by the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach August 12 

The above timeline highlights just some of former president Donald Trump’s battles with the National Archives since leaving office, including an unrelated court fight with the January 6 committee

During my interview with Grever, he walked over to his desk at FBI headquarters and returned with a state-of-the-art FBI bug, which he placed in my hand. 

The device is a circuit board the size of a postage stamp and the thickness of two stacked quarters. 

‘It’s a transmitter and a stereo recorder,’ he said. ‘It records for about 24 hours, and it will transmit to a local receiver in encrypted form. Lots of times the transmit function would not be enabled. Why transmit when it’s just another thing that could potentially expose the penetration? This is actually big in comparison to some of our bugs.’

Grever showed me how the bug can be concealed inside the rechargeable battery of a cell phone. Alternatively, the FBI could program a cell phone to record and transmit conversations.

In conducting surveillance, FBI agents may use any type of vehicle – a bucket truck, a Rolls-Royce, or a U.S. Postal Service truck. 

To give agents plausible cover, male and female agents may even walk together, holding hands. 

However, ‘Contrary to the James Bond movies, our female agents aren’t allowed nor asked to use sex to manipulate or control a subject,’ Grever told me.

‘Flirting and a smile at the right time are perfectly fine, but nothing physical.’

Sometimes the FBI offers bogus prizes to get occupants to leave a targeted home of a mafia member or terrorist so agents can plant listening devices.

‘We give people opportunities to travel and do exotic things,’ Grever said.

‘You’ve won the lottery! You’ve won a trip, a free dinner! Congratulations, we picked your business card out of a bucket. That wasn’t luck. That was us, trying to present an opportunity.’

To cover up noises or divert attention, the FBI may drive garbage trucks through the streets and bang the garbage cans around.

The president made the announcement on Truth Social, calling the the raid part of ‘the greatest witch hunt in USA history

They may start up a wood chipper or use a jackhammer to attack a piece of concrete that has been delivered to the location and dumped on the street. 

They may use high-pressure water jets to clean the sidewalks, sending passers-by scurrying. Agents may enlist local police to park their cruisers with lights flashing nearby.

A full wardrobe of about 50 assorted uniforms hangs on racks at the TacOps Support Center. A graphics expert designs custom-made uniforms, fake I.D. and badges, and wraps with fake signs for trucks. Agents will pose as elevator inspectors, firefighters, or utility workers.

Alternatively, they could pose as tourists wearing shorts and taking snapshots. They could be homeless people wearing tattered clothes. Agents select oversize clothes where they can secrete their tools for breaking in. And they go in with guns drawn.

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