Hidden wires seem so Cold War, but the art of secretly recording a conversation is alive and well—and very high-tech, the New York Times. Case in point: Last week's report of New York politicians allegedly trying to fix the mayoral race, which relied in part on a secretly recorded conversation in a car. Before taking a $25,000 bribe, politician Vincent Tabone patted down the undercover FBI agent beside him, according to a criminal complaint. Of course Tabone didn't find a wire—they're too darn small now.
Pity those who wore the first Cold War wire, which weighed about 10 pounds and used reel-to-reel tape. Not only did early wires malfunction, they were easy to detect: "Once they found a wire, you were dead," says a retired police officer. Nowadays, devices are smaller than a flash drive and can record video and sound through clothing. Just ask Carlos Matos, a Philadelphia politician who pleaded guilty to bribery in 2010 after he failed to find a wire on a construction contractor who had stripped nearly naked for the search. "Little did I know that I was way, way behind on the technology being used out there," says Matos.