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Bill Gives FBI More Access to Casino Records

21 November 2003

Las Vegas Sun

WASHINGTON, DC – A plan to give the FBI easier access to financial records from casinos and other businesses will now go to the president to sign.

The Senate approved the Intelligence Authorization bill earlier today without a roll call vote. This follows the House's 264-163 vote Thursday to approve the bill. How much money taxpayers are providing for the intelligence work was not disclosed, and the bill was worked on in secret by members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

The approved change gives the FBI the ability to get records from businesses in terrorism cases without the approval of a judge or a grand jury. While banks, credit unions and other financial institutions were already subject to such demands, the bill approved by the Senate today expands the list to include casinos, car dealers, pawnbrokers, travel agents and other businesses.

Nevada's Republican Reps. Jim Gibbons and Jon Porter voted for the bill. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted against it.

Berkley's position was similar to that of California Rep. Jane Harman, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Harman said while the expanded authority "closes a potentially significant loophole in the government's ability to track terrorist financing," she was worried the approved language was not clear enough and was concerned about possible abuses of "a classic fishing expedition."

Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, R-Idaho said: "With this legislation, we eliminate the judicial oversight that was built into our system for a reason, to make sure that our precious liberties are protected. In our fight for our nation to make the world a safe place, we must not turn our backs on our own freedoms. Expanding the use of administrative subpoenas and threatening our system of checks and balance is a step in the wrong direction."

As chairman of a House Intelligence Subcommittee, Gibbons worked on the final version of the bill and a spokeswoman said Thursday that he did not oppose the measure affecting casinos since the FBI could already subpoena their financial records through a court order.

"... Some of the most crucial needs of our intelligence community, the human intelligence and analysis, are getting the funding and attention that they deserve ," Gibbons said on the floor. "We are fighting a war on terrorism, and I cannot overemphasize how important human intelligence, also known under the acronym of HUMINT, is to the security of the American people and to our national interests."

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