Airlines, hotels ordered to give FBI information
Airlines, hotels ordered to give FBI information
Sun Jan 4 23:22:01 2004

Airlines, hotels ordered to give FBI information


Las Vegas hotel operators and airlines serving McCarran International Airport are being required by the FBI to turn over all guest and passenger names and personal information, at least during the holiday period, several sources said Tuesday.

FBI spokesman Todd Palmer confirmed the federal action and said the requirement that the companies surrender customer information is a "normal investigative procedure."

However, Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the program "clearly is not part of a normal investigation.

"What we seem to be witnessing at this point is a move on the part of the government to keep tabs on what everyone is doing all the time, which has serious civil liberties implications," Lichtenstein said.

"It's one thing to have some specific security concerns and a targeted investigation with some basis in fact, but to ... try to follow everyone goes beyond what is called for."

Hotel operators who asked not to be identified said the information being provided to federal officials includes guest and passenger names, addresses and personal identification information, but not casino records or guest gambling information.

But Palmer said "at this point" all the bureau is getting is guest and passenger names. He also said the program was started about a week ago but the timing varied for different companies.

He said the program was started because the Department of Homeland Security increased the national alert status, and that all cities of 50,000 or more had been told to "what was needed to make sure the cities were safe and secure."

Palmer said the Las Vegas FBI office has not been told what other cities are affected by similar programs.

He said the FBI in Las Vegas is receiving 100 percent cooperation from the gaming companies and airline operators.

Hotel operators said similar information was demanded by federal authorities for about six months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C.

Spokesmen for the casino companies said they agreed unanimously a week ago to comply with the FBI demands except for one company which insisted on receiving "national security letters" before surrendering guest records. Airlines are complying under subpoena from federal authorities.

President Bush signed legislation earlier this month expanding the authority of the bureau and other U.S. authorities conducting counterterrorist intelligence. The law authorizes them to demand records from financial companies including casinos without seeking court approval.

Previously, casino companies generally released such private information only under subpoena. But under the new law, they will be required to release it if national security letters are issued by federal investigators.

The information is being transmitted electronically to the FBI on what could amount to 300,000 visitors to Las Vegas daily.

The program of collecting information on guests and passengers was started following a meeting called by federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Bill Thompson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino industry expert, called the federal collection of information an invasion of privacy for Las Vegas visitors. He warned it could discourage visitors from coming to Las Vegas.

"It creates an image like Central America, where (security) people stand around on street corners with their Uzis and it doesn't feel good," he said. "It's going to be cumbersome, bothersome and hurt tourism generally if it persists at all."

Visitors interviewed Tuesday on the Strip were less concerned about the FBI program.

Ronald Cohen of East Windsor, N.J., said he could see the World Trade Center site from his office, and he doesn't worry about privacy issues any more.

"Anything they do is a good thing. I have no problems with it, "he said.

Nathan Irby of Baltimore agreed, saying the program may be a small invasion of privacy, "but it's justified because they have to take every precaution after 9-11."

Still another person agreed.

"In today's world, it makes sense for the FBI to look at these lists, and they'd be crazy if they didn't do it," said Paul Van Oost of Melbourne, Australia.

Representatives of casino operators said they would not comment on any specific security measures taken to protect their guests, but they said the safety of their guests is their top concern.

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, Christine Turneabe-Connelly, said FBI officials recently subpoenaed airline records for all passengers traveling into or out of Las Vegas from Dec. 22 through Jan. 4.

She was uncertain what specific information the airlines were required to turn over to authorities. But she said her Dallas-based carrier complied with the FBI requests in an effort to protect its passengers' safety.

Officials at America West Airlines, the airport's second-largest carrier, wouldn't comment on whether they have been asked to supply specific information about the airline's Las Vegas operations.

But spokeswoman Janice Monahan said the Tempe, Ariz.-based airline is cooperating with federal anti-terror efforts, including fulfilling government "requests for information" as well as meeting increased security directives.

Earlier this year, Kew Gardens, N.Y.-based JetBlue Airways drew the ire of consumer advocates and attorneys in two states after the discovery that the airline released private passenger information to an Alabama company at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense, USA Today reported in August.

Several class-action lawsuits stemming from that action are pending, JetBlue spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones said Tuesday. But he said the federal government is not investigating.

Edmondson-Jones also said he was unaware of the FBI's recent request for information regarding Las Vegas airline passengers.

Gaming Wire writers Chris Jones and Jeff Simpson contributed to this report.
Searched the web for Fourth Amendment + FBI. The Fourth Amendment and You — Banned by ...
... December 17, 2003. The Fourth Amendment and You. On Monday President Bush
signed legislation which expanded FBI powers in an unprecedented way. ...

December 17, 2003
The Fourth Amendment and You

On Monday President Bush signed legislation which expanded FBI powers in an unprecedented way. Specifically, the legislation allows John Ashcroft to issue himself a "National Security Letter" in order to conduct many searches.

Warrants and subpeonas are no longer necessary. The FBI no longer needs to prove probable cause to a judge in order to conduct many searches.

Warblogging first talked about this new legislation on November 26th. That article includes a good overview of what this bill does and the manner in which it was passed.

Let's recap quickly, though. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This amendment to the Constitution, a central component of the Bill of Rights, makes clear our rights regarding government search. It states that the government should not be able to get a to search you without probable cause.

The FBI now has a power to search your records of interaction with business — from your auctions on eBay to your purchases on to your interaction with your Internet Service Provider to your credit card receipts to your insurance records — without ever proving probable cause to anybody. The FBI simply issues itself a warrant (in this case called a "national security letter," which is simply a warrant by another name) without any review whatsoever.

In fact, the entire process is so secret and without oversight that businesses served with national security letters may not tell anyone about the search. National security letters, you see, include automatic gag orders — admitting your business has been served with a letter is an offense punishable by prison time.

So we have now reached a point where many — most — details of your life are available to the FBI for the taking. If the FBI feels it wants to know what you spend your money on, where you travel, what you like to buy or any number of other details about your life, it simply needs to demand the information. No court can say "you don't have probable cause" or ask "why do you need this information?"

The members of Congress who introduced this legislation into an intelligence spending bill (intelligence spending bills are generally the subject of very little debate, and their contents are generally secret) insisted that this new FBI power was necessary to combat terrorist money launderers.

They have to be kidding. How does the requirement for judicial review prevent the investigation of "terrorist money launderers"? How does the need to go before a judge and prove probable cause — prove that you're not simply engaged in a witch-hunt — prevent the investigation of terrorism? The answer is simple: it doesn't.

That requirement does, however, prevent other activities. It prevents the FBI from going on elaborate fishing investigations, seizing the private records of ordinary citizens who have little or no links to terrorism. It prevents the FBI from gathering information about political dissidents and other people who say or do things the government simply doesn't like. But no sane judge would say "no" to an FBI request for financial records about someone who appears to actually be engaged in terrorism-related activities.

This new power doesn't really help with terrorism investigations. It doesn't really help keep us safer. What it does is reopen the door just a bit wider — the USA PATRIOT Act and various directives issued by John Ashcroft to the FBI have already opened the door quite wide — to the kind of abuses the FBI had, until the Bush Administration, tried very hard to put behind it.

Those abuses include J. Edgar Hoover's investigations of Marilyn Monroe, they include COINTELPRO.

COINTELPRO, for those who don't know, was an FBI program designed "to neutralize political dissidents". The FBI engaged in widespread covert operations — including many so-called "black bag jobs" — designed to build massive files on dissenters and, when possible, publicly discredit them.

In 1976 a report was issued by Congress called the Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activies and the Rights of Americans. One of those targeted by COINTELPRO was Martin Luther King, Jr. The reasoning for this, as explained in the congressional report, was to "prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could 'unify, and electrify, the [civil rights] movement." Another goal was to "prevent groups and leaders [of the civil rights mvoement] from gaining 'respectability' by discrediting them to the 'responsible' Negro community."

This new legislation, which we don't even have a name for, is yet another step in the slippery slope towards tyranny. Even as Saddam Hussein is captured in Iraq President Bush signs legislation that moves America closer to being a police state.

I might mention, by the way, that the apparently poorly named Department of Justice has just announced that American citizen Jose Padilla will still not be allowed to see an attorney. Padilla was arrested at Chicago O'Hare airport on suspicion of being a terrorist bent on exploding a "dirty bomb" in the United States. Attorney General Ashcroft announced his arrest triumphantly.

Only later would the DoJ admit Padilla is a "small fish", as Warblogging reported in August of last year. But this "small fish" has now spent a year and a half in solitary confinement at a US military facility in South Carolina. He has not been allowed to see an attorney. He has not been allowed to appeal for a writ of habeus corpus. He has not been allowed to speak to anyone in the outside world, and quite possibly has not been allowed to see sunlight in his year and a half in captivity.

The Department of Justice says that they need to continue to detain Padilla without access to an attorney because he "continues to provide valuable intelligence" to the government, as the AP puts it. An anonymous DoJ source told the AP that this intelligence gathering "would potentially be hampered and jeopardized by access to counsel." My question is this: Padilla has been detained for more than a year and a half now. What more intelligence could he possibly have to give after all this time, and how could that intelligence still be relevant?

Padilla has not been charged with a crime. He has not been brought before a judge. He has not been given an attorney. He has not been allowed to make a phone call — not one. This in America. This with an American citizen.

Do not forget that we now have the USA PATRIOT Act and this new legislation. Do not forget that there are multiple American citizens currently being detained indefinitely by the military without charge, without access to attorneys, and without the benefit of habeus corpus. Do not forget that the Attorney General of the United States is cracking down on free speech. Do not forget that riot police are becoming more aggressive in putting down protests, as reports. Do not forget that the US government tried very, very hard to build Total Information Awareness.

Remember that our fundamental freedoms are not only in jeopardy, but are now being violated. Remember that what makes this country great — the Bill of Rights — is now being shredded in Washington. And remember that the only way we can save our freedoms is to get President Bush out of the White House.

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