Industry Update
Opinion Article24 February 2012

FBI tips for hotels. How to spot terrorists and what to do

Hotel Lawyer with "Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Hotels and Motels."

By Jim Butler, Chairman, JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group

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Hoteliers, I have 3 questions for you:

  1. Do you know the red flags of suspicious activity that may indicate a terrorist is staying at your hotel?
  2. Do you know what to do when you see these red flags?
  3. Do you know what the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) say about these matters?

Recently, the FBI and the BJA set up a joint regional intelligence center, a hotline, and published a Release with some tips specifically for hotels and motels. Here are the highlights from the Release, as well as a link to download the full text.

What should I consider suspicious?

Guests who:

  • Request specific room assignments or locations.
  • Use cash for large transactions or a credit card in someone else's name.
  • Arrive with unusual amounts of luggage.
  • Make unusual inquiries about local sites, including government, military, police, communications, and power facilities.
  • Refuse cleaning service over an extended time.
  • Use entrances and exits that avoid the lobby.
  • Abandon a room and leave behind clothing and toiletry items.
  • Do not leave their room.
  • Change their appearance.
  • Leave the property for several days and then return.

Thefts of official vehicles, uniforms, identification, and access cards.

Reports of guest rooms with:

  • Burn marks or discoloration on the walls or door.
  • Unusual odors or liquids seeping from a guest room.
  • Unusual amounts of traffic.

Discovery of unusual items in guest rooms or facility dumpsters:

  • Fertilizer or agricultural products.
  • Chemicals or chemical containers.
  • Fuel or fuel containers.
  • Weapons, ammunition, and explosives.
  • Extremist training manuals or literature.
  • Fraudulent credit cards or documents.

Parked vehicles in isolated areas.

What should I do?

Be part of the solution.

  • Report vehicles abandoned on the property to law enforcement authorities.
  • Watch for people and actions that are out of place.
  • Make note of suspicious statements, people, and/or vehicles.
  • If something seems wrong, notify law enforcement authorities.

A few final considerations

The Release also adds a few cautions worth noting:

Each indictor listed above, is by itself lawful conduct or behavior and may also constitute the exercise of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. In addition, there may be a wholly innocent explanation for conduct or behavior that appears suspicious in nature. For this reason, no single indicator should be the sole basis for law enforcement action. The totality of behavioral indicators and other relevant circumstances should be evaluated when considering any law enforcement response or action.

It is important to remember that just because someone 's speech, actions, beliefs, appearance, or way of life is different, it does not mean that he or she is suspicious.

For more information

For more information, contact the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC), , (888) 705-JRIC (5742) mention "Tripwire." Download the full text of this 1-page Release by clicking: Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Hotels and Motels.
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Jim Butler

Jim Butler is a founding partner of JMBM, and the founder and chairman of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® and Chinese Investment Group™. He is recognized as one of the top hotel lawyers in the world and has authored or co- authored The HMA & Franchise Agreement Handbook, How to Buy a Hotel Handbook, and The Lenders Handbook.

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