PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
HIDDEN AIRPORT CAMERAS SURPRISE GUAM AUTHORITIES
By Tammy Anderson
HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 3) – A tip from U.S. Customs led Guam airport agency and local customs officials to numerous surveillance cameras and listening devices hidden in security-sensitive areas at the airport's arrival area yesterday.
The two agencies' top officials said they were unaware the devices had been installed, including in areas where arriving passengers and their bags and other belongings are checked.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has been notified, Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency Director Rick Blas said.
Although he does not know if anything has been compromised, Blas said it is possible that the confidentiality of individuals being inspected and interviewed by customs officers may have been breached. If the information was breached, Blas said, the civil rights of passengers might become an issue.
There also may have been monitoring video and audio on narcotics arrests, he added.
"The breach of that facility and integrity is of great concern to me," Blas said. He said customs operations will not necessarily change because of the discovery, but local customs will continue investigating.
Some of the cameras were concealed in square "EXIT" sign boxes, Blas said. What he thought was a typical small, silver electrical panel positioned above the doors where customs officials enter and exit every day, was actually the front for a finger nail-sized camera.
"I didn't even know that the camera existed. You wouldn't even think of it. I am just shocked," Blas said yesterday.
There are surveillance cameras that are allowed and used by the airport and local customs, but the devices found yesterday were not among them, said Jess Torres, executive manager of the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority.
Neither Torres nor Blas could remember any authorization for the installation of the surveillance cameras found yesterday.
Torres said there has never been any authorization for listening devices at the airport.
Blas and Torres said they did not know exactly how many cameras and microphones were found yesterday or how many more may be present.
They also did not know if the cameras and microphones were in use, or what they are connected to.
Torres said he and customs officials met yesterday afternoon to determine what their course of action would be.
Within the next weeks, Torres said an independent contractor would be hired to sweep the customs area for devices. The contractor would possibly be paid with emergency funds, because Torres said the situation is very serious.
Blas said he recalled that, about four years ago, a private company's employees were working in the same areas where the devices were found yesterday.
"This (company's employees) said, 'We looking at wiring,'" Blas said.
Torres also noted that work orders on file at the agency would be searched today to find out who authorized and paid for the placement of the cameras and microphones.
March 3, 2006
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