Mecham fears he’s bugged by laser rays

January 21, 1988

By Don Harris
The Arizona Republic

Gov. Evan Mecham stunned guests at a breakfast earlier this week when he told them of his concern that laser beams are being used to eavesdrop on his office and his Glendale home.

The governor made the comments to a half-dozen others sitting at his table before he addressed the Phoenix Forum Breakfast Club on Tuesday.

Mecham’s concern was confirimed by three people who sat at Mecham’s table.

“When he said that, I did a double take,” said Ernest Calderon, an attorney who was sitting at the table. “We looked at each other aghast. I thought my hearing was failing. I couldn’t believe it.”

Ken Smith, Mecham’s press secretary, said Wednesday that there is continuing concern that the governor’s office is the target of some sort of electronic surveillance.

Smith was reluctant to discuss the matter but said no evidence of such eavesdropping has been uncovered. The suspected device, he said, would be more like a microwave than a laser beam.

“It looks a lot like a dish that the TV stations use,” Smith said, adding, “and they’re not that expensive.”

An electronics firm spokesman said the technology for such a listening device does indeed exist and presumably is in the hands of the federal government.

Jim Kassebaum of Motorola’s Government Electronics Division said his firm does not manufacture such equipment. One of those at Mecham’s table, who asked not to be identified, gave this account of the governor’s remarks:

“He asked, ‘Did you hear me on KTAR (on Monday), and do you want to know why I called?’ “We said we didn’t know, and the governor said, ‘Because I wanted to talk to Jon Kyl.'”

Mecham debated Rep. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., on KTAR. Both had phoned the station. Mecham had placed the call from his home.

“Then he (Mecham) said, ‘Do you want to know why I had the radio on at home?'” the man said.

Again quoting Mecham, the man said, “Whenever I’m in my house or my office, I always have a radio on. It keeps the lasers out.” The man said Mecham was deadly serious.

“We said, ‘What lasers?’ and he said, ‘The lasers for eavesdropping. They’re eavesdropping on me. They’re shooting lasers through the windows.’”

The man said Mecham declined to identify who “they” are.

It has been widely rumored for several months that Mecham suspects that either The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette or state Attorney General Bob Corbin are using laser beams to monitor his private conversations.

Smith said Wednesday, however, that the newspapers could not be doing it because there is a high-rise between the newspapers’ offices and the Capitol that presumably would block any beams.

Pat Murphy, publisher of The Republic and The Gazette, said the newspapers have no such device.

“For the governor to suggest such a preposterous plot casts a new light on the terrible and unthinking intellectual barrenness of the governor and those around him,” Murphy said.

Corbin laughed when told of Mecham’s comments. Asked whether the attorney general’s office possesses a laser device that could eavesdrop, Corbin said, “Hell, no, I don’t have any such devices. We don’t have any ray gun pointed at him.”

Sam Ciatu, an attorney who was at the breakfast, confirmed that he also heard Mecham talking about laser eavesdropping and said, “I guess anything is possible?”