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Physical Search Instrumentation

The instrumentation used for a physical search includes items ranging from flashlights and light stands, to Bore Scopes, and portable X-Ray equipment.

Directional Forensic Lighting Source

The most commonly used physical search instrument is a directional lighting source. A handheld 300 watt forensic xenon lamp works well, however; a quartz, or halogen light may be used with reduced effectiveness. This light is used with a "snoot" to provide a very sharp, and very small area of intense wide spectrum illumination. This method of illumination will often show the location of pin hole microphones, and fine wire installations.

When wide spectrum illumination (such as a xenon lamp) is combined with infrared and ultraviolet filtration the location of modifications may be quickly identified. Glue lines, repainted areas, and disturbed carpeting will literally "leap-out" to the user. In many cases ultraviolet illumination will identify areas where dust has been slightly disturbed, or books which have been moved (when the eavesdropping device was installed).

There have been several cases where ultraviolet illumination located the faint image of a "surgical glove palm print" near a door jamb or window frame. When the area was explored in detail a carefully concealed bug or hard wired microphone was discovered.

A 360-500nm transmissive filter is normally used on the light source, and a yellow (Y-44) filter or goggles are typically used to enhance viewing.

This type of light source is generally available for $350, plus the cost of filtration and light pipes.

White Light Flashlights

Most flashlights and lanterns utilize a tungsten or halogen element to generate light, this type of light source is creates a light beam with a strong red or infra-red "cast". Instead a xenon or "white light" flashlight should be used, these allow the use of transmissive filters and generally have a tighter beam pattern to facilitate oblique lighting inspections.

Details will also register better on the retina of the eye if a white light source is used for visually inspections, whereas tungsten lighting typically causes a noticeable loss of detail.

The rechargeable tactical light made by Laser Products works very well (6P and 9N), and may be supplemented with a multi-million candle power handheld lantern.

Xenon flashlights are fairly expensive with a cost of $100 for an cheaper system, and $350+ for a 9N system. The cost of a high power lantern begins at $1200.


A large number of small handheld inspection mirrors will also be useful, and will allow small confined areas to be inspected. Several sizes and models should be used as no single mirror will suffice for all requirements. The mirrors should all be non-conductive, and range in size from small dental units to the larger 2 and 3 inch round mirrors.

Portable Film Based X-ray Imaging System

A film based X-ray imaging system is the lowest cost method of obtaining an inside view of a solid or hollow object. A very common system consists of a Polaroid 8*10 sheet film holder and a Golden Engineering 200 X-ray source. The source and film holder will easily fit into a small briefcase. Such a system will cost less than $3500, but the film cost will be very high.

Portable Digital X-ray Imaging System

Modern technology has allowed solid state electronics to replace expensive film based imaging system. Images then appear on the computer screen, where they can they be included into reports, or saved for future reference.

A system which is becoming very popular within the TSCM industry is the Science Applications International RTR-3 Portable Digital X-Ray Imaging System. The system consists of a digital imaging plate, X-Ray source, and control unit/computer housed in a Zero-Halliburton case.

The X-ray imager is available in a variety of sizes including those with a 4" x 5", 8" x 10", 12.75" x 17" field-of-view (the 8" x 10" imager is ideal for TSCM and EOD work).

The RTR-3 uses a Golden Engineering XR200 X-Ray Source; a pulsed 150 kV device with a 40 degree beam angle which is operated under computer control of increased operator safety. The Golden XR150, Inspector, and other X-ray sources may also be used.

A system such as the RTR-3 will involve costs in excess of $15,000.

Bore Scopes and Endoscopes

A borescope is a tubular mirror which allows the user to view inside small or restricted areas such as hollow walls, wall boxes, and heating ducts. Bore scopes are classified into two types; flexible and rigid. The direction of view provides a second type of classification; straight view, 26, 60, and 90 degree.

Rigid Bore Scopes are typically short handheld hollow tubes, with a light source contained in the handle. These instruments may be used to visually inspect pin-holes, cracks, and structural joints. Additionally, a short non-conductive borescope is commonly used to inspect electrical wall boxes, and telephone system outlets for eavesdropping devices. Strongly recommend a 8" x 16" unit with rotatable mirror tubes.

Flexible bore scopes or endoscopes are typically used to inspect wall and ceiling cavities, HVAC duct work, and other concealed area when physical access is impossible or difficult. Recommend both the 15 and 30 foot scopes with a Lumina 150/300 watt xenon light source.

Both types of bore scopes should be used with a video monitor system to reduce user fatigue, and to provide documentation.

A decent low cost Olympus or ITI rigid borescope suitable for TSCM work will cost at least $3,500. The flexible bore scopes start at $5,000, plus the light source.

Infra-red Imaging

An infra-red viewer is also valuable during a TSCM physical inspection. Usually a third generation night vision system is used with a 900nm transmissive filter over the objective. This will allow the TSCM specialist to observe IR blooming commonly caused by optical eavesdropping devices.

Thermal Imaging

A thermal viewing instrument such as the Radiance camera are also useful during an inspection. A quartz space heater or lamp may be used to slightly warm up a surface. The surface may then be viewed with the thermal imager to identify structural elements or anomalies caused by eavesdropping devices or structural modifications.

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