In the Sky Is Blue And Water Is Wet Department, Tom DeLay has admitted that yes, he did have a role in the DPS investigation of the Killer D's.
DeLay said his staff used public information at the Federal Aviation Administration to track former Texas Speaker Pete Laney's airplane.
Laney was among 55 Democrats who broke a House quorum on May 12 to kill a congressional redistricting bill sought by DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Craddick and DeLay wanted the errant legislators arrested and returned to the House to force a vote on the bill.
"I was told at the time that that plane was in the air coming from Ardmore, Oklahoma, back to Georgetown, Texas," DeLay said of the FAA's information, which he said was also available on the agency's Web site. "I relayed that information to Tom Craddick."
Texas Department of Public Safety officers working in Craddick's office had the same information when it contacted a federal air interdiction agency to seek its help in finding Laney's airplane. The federal agency has since said it was misled into believing Laney's airplane was missing and possibly had crashed.
Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge, meanwhile, said Thursday his agency is investigating "potentially criminal" misuse of the federal air interdiction service by the DPS.
DeLay said he played no part in the DPS' decision to contact the federal air interdiction service. And Craddick denies knowing anything about how the DPS came to call the agency.
"I don't know who contacted who," Craddick said.
Meanwhile, in Austin, the Travis County DA's investigation of search records destroyed by DPS is underway as the chief of DPS was questioned by the grand jury.
The sworn testimony of Marshall Caskey came two days after his agency acknowledged he ordered the destruction of all investigative files the state police accumulated while tracking the lawmakers.
It wasn't immediately clear who besides Caskey testified Thursday. But the investigation by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle clearly ratchets up the scrutiny on the role the DPS and the federal Homeland Security Department played in the search for the legislators.
Both Earle and the DPS declined to comment on the grand jury proceeding. Late in the day, Earle issued a statement saying his office is "examining the circumstances surrounding the destruction of (DPS) records. The questions (being asked) include what records were destroyed, under what authority and why the records were destroyed so quickly."
The statement also noted the DPS is cooperating with the probe.
Also Thursday, Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, sought and secured a temporary restraining order in state district court in Austin to prevent the DPS from destroying any more of its records.
Burnam, one of the Democrats who fled to Oklahoma, earlier this week filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all the materials the DPS accumulated during the two days it said it searched for the lawmakers.
The Austin American Statesman's John Kelso notes an irony in all this:
Where DPS started looking real screwy is when it destroyed all the records they had compiled about the search for the Democrats — with one exception. The Cops of the Keystone Kind forgot to ditch the incriminating e-mail.
The Star Telegram has possibly the ugliest photos of Tom Ridge and Tom DeLay you'll ever see, plus a reminder from DeLay that like Lord Voldemort and Darth Vader, he may have retreated but he hasn't been defeated:
"I'm not giving up," DeLay said. "And I will not be intimidated. This is not over yet."
Finally, from the Dallas Morning News, some more good news for the Democrats:
In related matter, a DPS spokeswoman said a Travis County prosecutor has told the DPS that there was insufficient evidence to press charges in the reported theft of a GOP redistricting map. A Craddick aide said that an aide to U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington, took draft redistricting maps from his briefcase, which he had left unattended in a Capitol committee room.
A surveillance camera showed that Frost aide leaving the room with documents.