A spatial filtering method for localizing sources of brain electrical activity from surface recordings is described and analyzed. The spatial filters are implemented as a weighted sum of the data recorded at different sites. The weights are chosen to minimize the filter output power subject to a linear constraint. The linear constraint forces the filter to pass brain electrical activity from a specified location, while the power minimization attenuates activity originating at other locations. The estimated output power as a function of location is normalized by the estimated noise power as a function of location to obtain a neural activity index map. Locations of source activity correspond to maxima in the neural activity index map. The method does not require any prior assumptions about the number of active sources of their geometry because it exploits the spatial covariance of the source electrical activity. This paper presents a development and analysis of the method and explores its sensitivity to deviations between actual and assumed data models. The effect on the algorithm of covariance matrix estimation, correlation between sources, and choice of reference is discussed. Simulated and measured data is used to illustrate the efficacy of the approach.