PHILADELPHIA (AP) — As Mayor John F. Street’s campaign foundered amid speculation about why his office was bugged, a federal official confirmed the mayor is a “subject” in an FBI probe.
In the three days since listening devices were found in City Hall, Mr. Street has said repeatedly that federal prosecutors told him he is not a “target” in a criminal investigation.
But a federal official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Friday that Mr. Street is a “subject” in an investigation. The legal term is used to describe a person whose conduct is within the scope of a criminal probe, although he himself may not be suspected of breaking the law.
A “target” is someone who is likely to be indicted. A subject of an investigation may later become a target.
Speculation about whether Mr. Street or someone close to his administration could be in legal trouble has made it all but impossible for the Democratic mayor to campaign against his Republican opponent, Sam Katz.
Mr. Street skipped three of the four events on his public schedule Friday. Campaign aides said he attended the funeral of a firefighter who suffered a heart attack while helping extinguish a fire.
Mobbed by reporters at his one appearance, Mr. Street said his attorney urged him to stop answering questions about the investigation.
“He … advised me that it’s inappropriate to give a daily recitation of everything that has happened between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and me and all of this,” said Mr. Street, before adding, “I’ve told everybody everything that I know.”
The bugging was discovered Tuesday after the police commissioner ordered a routine sweep of the mayor’s offices for surveillance devices.
Federal law enforcement sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the FBI placed the bug, but declined to say when or why.
In recent months, federal agents have subpoenaed city agencies for thousands of pages of records having to do with various city contracts, including a $13.6 million maintenance contract at the city-owned Philadelphia International Airport.
Shortly after the bugs were found, FBI agents also confiscated Mr. Street’s handheld computer.
Federal authorities have declined to say whether any of those requests are related, and officials in several city departments refused to say whether agents have come for more documents in recent weeks.
Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, asked a federal court Friday to unseal all search warrants connected to the bugging.