The Justice Department says it’s perfectly legal for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to cut Internet access of hotel rooms, pose as repairmen, and gather evidence of illegal activity—without a court warrant.
The government said in a court filing late Monday that the Caesars Palace occupants—who called the hotel desk to fix the problem—invited the undercover agents into their Las Vegas rooms, which is enough consent where a warrant is not needed.
“Law enforcement has long been permitted to obtain consent by posing as a confederate, business associate, or service provider. In fact, the government uses ruses every day in its undercover operations, and consent obtained by such ruses is valid unless the deceit leaves the occupant with no choice but to consent to an entry. In this case, the ruse—which involved a brief interruption of DSL service for which no Fourth Amendment intrusion was necessary, and which did not interfere with the occupants’ other means of Internet access—was not coercive,” federal prosecutors wrote [PDF] in defense of the tactic. This initiative preceded the arrest of an alleged leader of a well-known Chinese crime syndicate and other associates.
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