July 29, 2004 2:11 PM PDT

Homeland Security works door at Gates' party

A party at Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' waterfront mansion recently became the focus of unusual police attention.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a "temporary security zone" earlier this month around Gates' Lake Washington home, saying in a notice published in the Federal Register that the move was necessary to prevent "terrorism, sabotage or other subversive acts."

Security zones prevent any person or watercraft from entering the area without explicit government permission. They're normally used to tighten security around military bases and naval facilities, and it's exceedingly rare for them to be erected around a private residence.

The reason for the "Gates Residence Security Zone," which locked down all of Lake Washington south of the Highway 520 bridge and stayed in effect for two days, was a private party the Microsoft billionaire threw on July 18.

Gates had invited over members of the National Governors Association, who were in Seattle for their annual conference. Microsoft also wrote a check for $150,000 to be an "emerald" sponsor of the NGA meeting, which about 30 governors attended.

Among the NGA meeting attendees: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, both former governors, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. Gates' homestead is approximately 48,000 square feet with a garage that reportedly accommodates 30 cars.

The NGA is an influential lobby group that often takes positions on topics important to Microsoft, like antitrust, Internet taxes and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) regulations.

For instance, the NGA opposes extending a now-lapsed moratorium on Internet access taxes, which had prevented states from taxing services like MSN Broadband. The NGA also insists that states should have the power to tax and regulate VoIP services, an idea that Microsoft opposes.

The Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, takes "temporary security zones" seriously. Last year, an appeals court upheld the convictions of two men for ignoring warnings from Coast Guard officials in an inflatable boat to stay out of a secure area near a Navy firing range.

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Tax-payer subsidized security for a billionaire?
Why are tax payers covering the security bill for a convicted
monopolist who is the richest man on the planet?
Posted by (1 comment )
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It's not for him
The security is for the governors, who hold elected political office in their respective states, and could be the target of criminal activity.

Moreover, Gates cannot be expected to personally pay for security for every single governor.

Cheers,
Doug
Posted by dmehus (30 comments )
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