Kenya: The Standard Is Back Online
Guam: "If Rick Blas doesn't know that something's going on at his agency, something's wrong."

Unauthorized Surveillance Cameras in Guam Airport: Who Was Watching The Customs Channel?

GuamThere's a suggestive news story just out of Guam from Pacific News Daily: FBI takes airport spy devices

FBI agents have taken custody of mini-surveillance cameras and listening devices found Thursday at the island's airport as part of a joint investigation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Several listening devices and at least three small cameras were found after the Guam Department of Customs and Quarantine received a tip from U.S. Customs, said Guam Customs Director Rick Blas. The devices were concealed in the area where customs agents check arriving passengers and their bags.

At least two of the cameras were "live," or in operation, when they were discovered, Blas said, adding that local officials do not yet know where the camera signals were going. . . .

Guam Customs Director Rick Blas yesterday said he believes the equipment was installed during the term of former airport Executive Manager Gerald Yingling. Blas, who was customs chief at the time Yingling ran the airport, said he recalled people working in the same areas where the devices were found Thursday.

Yingling yesterday said there were cameras installed at the airport during his tenure after the 9-11 terror attacks. At the time, he said, the Federal Aviation Authority told the airport to "beef up security at the airport" and the airport had several cameras installed around the facility.

Yingling yesterday said he did not know if the devices found on Thursday were the same ones. Yingling said he didn't know the make of the cameras that were installed. He also did not know who installed them and where they were placed at the airport.

Current airport Executive Manager Jess Torres has said that old work orders on file at the airport will be examined to determine who authorized and paid for the placement of the cameras and listening devices. Torres said the devices discovered Thursday were not authorized under his watch.

So. What's up with this? Who would want to monitor what was happening in US Customs inspections in Guam? Probably the private sector, I would guess. And probably someone with goods passing through customs. Smugglers? Or?

Guam_apt_ext_nightBut OK, say smugglers want to do this. How do they gain access to secure areas in the first place to plant the surveillance equipment? Hmm.

See also KUAM News: Surveillance equipment discovered at Customs office

For the last year, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency has heard rumors about being under surveillance. Officials say it was merely speculation, that is until today when a thorough sweep was made in the customs airport offices and screening area.

Customs and their federal counterpart found numerous surveillance items, including cameras and listening devices, in places they thought were secure. Now officials are concerned that they may have violated the civil rights of thousands of passengers and their employees.

Looking at a small, pin-sized, non-intimidating object, you probably wouldn't think too much of what it contains. To a layperson, it merely looks like a small panel for some electrical wires, but the small pinhole in the center is actually a camera. This is just one of many found during a sweep of the Customs' airport offices this morning. Director Rick Blas says he was shocked with the findings, wondering who would go to such great lengths to keep an eye on his agency. "You would think that we would be safe in our homes, but as we found out this morning that is not the case," he said.

Apparently for an undetermined amount of time, Big Brother has been watching Customs officers conducting daily business at the Guam International Airport, from screening passengers, entering and exiting their offices, to cameras inside the break room and surrounding each secondary search area. During this morning's sweep officials found numerous items that looked like switches in the screening area at the Airport, but Blas confirms they weren't switches at all; in fact, they were listening devices.

Poking around for images, I found this lovely historical postcard of Vice President Spiro Agnew's arrival at the Guam Airport.


The airport is having a logo design contest (deadline tomorrow). Maybe one should do a design that involves bugs. Something sort of retro, maybe early-Nixionian. They had bugs back then, too, didn't they?

(See also my follow-up post.)