I wrote previously about hotel room searches in violation of 4th amendment protections, but something happened at the DefCON security conference that’s worth noting.  

Consider: when the rights of individuals get violated it’s just one voice – one by one we’re upset about it but one by one hotel conglomerates ignore us “for our own safety”.  It’s something individuals are forced to deal with.

Now consider: what happens when the same thing occurs at a ~25,000 person security conference, where almost all attendees are tech savvy?  You get video evidence, professional witness and real-time collaboration, that’s what.

To be specific:

  • Multiple audio and video recordings of hotel staff searching a room while the occupant is away, pawing through suitcases and taking pictures, telling his partner he’s posting them to Snapchat. (multiple – not just a “bad couple of staff”).
  • Attestation by a security company’s CEO that the security guards pounded on her hotel room door, yelling and demanding entry while she was getting dressed, only to find they had no appropriate hotel identification and could have taken turns violating her in her own room if she hadn’t gotten into the screaming match, alerting the whole hotel floor to the situation.
  • Someone blowing through the lock on the door without knocking while another attendee was getting dressed, leaving only when she started screaming (this happened to me in my last trip to DC as well.. sans screaming… more yelling and asking if the hotel employee wanted to see anything else).
  • Reports of a stranger knocking on hotel room doors demanding to be let in because he was hotel security, only to walk away later.  Caesar’s management confirmed this person was not an employee, was not dressed like their security staff and that they, as the hotel owner, were not responsible for his actions.
  • Naturally the hotels deny the theft of property, but there are multiple reports of it occurring.
  • Multiple other people were threatened by Caesars Entertainment that if they post what happened to them, they will be banned from all Caesars’ property.  Facial recognition systems at the following locations will flag security for their immediate removal:  Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s, Hoseshoe, Cromwell, Linq, Flamingo, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Hoosier, Indiana Grand, Tunica Roadhouse, Harvey’s, Rio, London Club Cairo, Alea, Casino at the Empire, Golden Nugget, Manchester235, Playboy Club, The Rendezvous, The Sportsman, Cascata golf course, Rio Secco… (need I go on? There is another page of properties owned by this conglomerate).


If you’re alone in your hotel room and any of this happened to you, what would you do?  When they start banging on the door what are you going to do, ask for ID or politely ask them to leave?  This is Peter Pan-level naivete – you could get gang raped in your own room, that’s what could happen.   You HAVE to open the door, but they don’t have to have a warrant. This is why the fourth amendment was drafted and one of many examples as to why violations of privacy are not an acceptable response to a security threat.

The Vegas shootings do not justify what is now widespread “policy” across hotel chains.  Anybody who ignores this gets to watch as we become a police state, but worse: corporations will have more power than our militarized police because they don’t even need a rubber-stamped warrant.

 Lastly, let’s just nip this perspective in the bud:

Let’s remember that is has been < 12 months since the Vegas shooting, and the biggest question people have been asking (aside from motive) is how a man managed to bring that much firepower into his hotel room and keep it there for so long. Now you have a large and diverse group of counter-culture oriented people bringing large padlocked hard cases to their rooms and declining maid service for days at a time. What did they expect? Of course hotel security is going to be all over that. Its a destination resort for gambling and drinking, have some perspective.

In the United States, we require warrants for searches.  We as a nation have been able to solve and prevent crime with that fundamental right for over 200 years.   Anybody who holds the above perspective needs to be educated as to their rights as a citizen, why they are there and how many citizens died so that they could have them (hint: it’s more than the number of people who died at the concert by hundreds of thousands).

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that “[t]he 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.”

People have to understand that the attitude of “go ahead and search my room, I have nothing to hide” is dismissive and cavalier.   There is an issue here,  it’s serious and mustn’t be dismissed with a wave of the hand.  If people vote with that attitude they’re inflicting terrible harm on other US citizens.  How we handle security threats needs to be discussed by The People, not inflicted upon us by companies who now, in the end, control us.

It’s government’s job to keep big business in check because we citizens are powerless to do it.  There’s supposed to be market competition (“If you don’t like it then go to another hotel”), but with government failing to prevent all the major hotels in Vegas from being owned by one of two colluding conglomerates there’s no longer choice, and thus no longer a free market check-and-balance solution.

Our government has to tell businesses that this is not acceptable and forbid the practice.  This means we have to get control of our government again so that it’s by the people, for the people – not a fleecing farm for corporate interests.  Thing is, are you as a citizen so scared after the Vegas concert shooting that you’re too on-the-fence to petition your government to stop this practice?  Are you interested in finding another way with your fellow citizens, or would you rather sacrifice your freedoms so you don’t have to deal with it?

Lastly – this article features a photo of someone’s specific note removing content to search: this is not effective because the hotel agreement (online, in the small print you didn’t see) creates a binding agreement with the person in the room which takes precedence.  We WILL have our room searched, without a warrant or idenfication, when and how they want to.  Therefore:

  • Pack light, take nothing you don’t need. 
  • Photograph the inside of your suitcase when you pack it so that if they steal anything you can at least provide a picture.
  • Get a real lock (not TSA-backdoored / “approved” ) for your suitcase and put it on while it’s in your hotel room.  It might not be sufficient, but it will force them to damage your property during an invasive search giving you other legal venues to pursue.  If they choose not to damage your property you’ll at least have to be present during the warrentless search.
  • If you’re in your room alone and they come knocking, pick up your phone immediately and call a friend, even if it’s just a voice message.  Talk to that person while they’re there so that it’s clear someone knows where you are and will miss you if they get inappropriate or violent with you.  Fake the call if you have to.
  • Lastly, get a doorstop for travel so they can’t walk in on you unannounced (which does happen often).  The Veritas Traveler Doorstop or the one here at Amazon is an example :
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