June 17, 2003
DHS clears itself

Well, I can't say this this is a big surprise:

WASHINGTON -- A Homeland Security Department investigation has cleared an agency worker of any wrongdoing in the effort last month to help Texas Republicans track down missing Democratic lawmakers and referred questionable actions by the state Department of Public Safety to the FBI.

The report, released late Monday by the department's inspector general, found an agency employee spent 40 minutes and was involved in eight phone calls trying to track down former state House Speaker Pete Laney's airplane during a partisan standoff over redistricting.

The inspector general's report said the behavior by the dispatcher at the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center in California did not amount to fraud or abuse of federal resources.

Despite some indications that DHS knew what they were involved in, the likelier scenario was that the Texas Department of Public Safety misled them. There's still no answer to that question, and DHS still hasn't given up its transcripts which would clear it right up. The DHS report left many questions unanswered:

Monday's inspector general report did not address whether the Texas Department of Public Safety lied or violated state or federal law when it subsequently destroyed documents relating to state troopers' efforts to get the Homeland Security Department involved.


In its report, the inspector general's office stated that the Texas DPS had been uncooperative during the investigation.

"DPS officials interviewed by the (inspector general's office) declined to provide any information identifying the person or persons who requested surveillance assistance and claimed they destroyed all notes, memoranda, or other correspondence related to this incident," the report said.

In short, the main question - what the hell was DPS doing when they called in Homeland Security - is still a mystery, and DPS has done everything it can to ensure it stays that way.

In the meantime, another finger has been pointed at Speaker Tom Craddick:

[I]n a deposition released Monday, state Homeland Security Coordinator Jay Kimbrough denied suggesting to state officials that federal agencies be recruited to help search for the missing legislators.

Kimbrough said he called the FBI only after House Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican, gave him the name and number of an agent in Oklahoma. He said Craddick wanted him to call the agent to determine whether the FBI had any jurisdiction in the case because the missing legislators had crossed state lines.

"The speaker of the House gave me a number and said, `Here, call this FBI agent to see if ... these guys have any jurisdiction since they (the Texas Democrats known to be in Oklahoma) have crossed state lines,' " Kimbrough said in the deposition taken in a civil lawsuit brought by state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. Burnam alleges that DPS illegally destroyed records.

That sworn testimony -- along with a deposition given by DPS Lt. Will Crais, portraying a similar account -- suggests Craddick played a much larger role in seeking federal help.

Bob Richter, Craddick's spokesman, said the speaker's involvement was minimal.

"Craddick was not directing the operation," Richter said.

"The speaker knows nothing, NOTHING," Richter did not add.

Rep. Burnam is still dogging DPS, at least for now:

In addition to the Fort Worth Democrat's previous charges that the department illegally destroyed records, Burnam's lawyer Art Brender said the department had violated its own record management policies and had no authority under Texas law to use state resources to attempt to apprehend members of the House.

Brender said Burnam wanted to make sure the issue of who is authorized to do what under House Rules is ironed out before a special session is called this summer, hinting at the possibility that the so-called "Killer Ds" may strike again.


"Burnam wants the court to clearly define what the rules of engagement are," Brender said. He said that neither the Department of Public Safety nor the state knew what its roles were when the Democrats fled, and said he didn't think the public safety officers appreciated the political guys "calling the shots."

Say whatever else you want, it would be a useful result out of all this if everyone were to come to an agreement about who can do what if and when this sort of quorum-busting occurs in the future. I just hope someone writes it all down.

Burnam's lawsuit may be coming to an end - DPS claims it has now fully complied with his request. A judge will rule on that within the next 30 days. For what it's worth, there's still an investigation by the Department of Transportation into how Tom DeLay got his mitts on FAA flight information that is supposedly not available to the general public, and a request for information on the White House's role in all this by Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 17, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Call me a cynic, but my belief is that EVEN if DHS acted improperly, EVEN if DPS acted improperly, EVEN if Craddick acted improperly, nobody will be held accountable. The whole thing has gone largely unnoticed by the public anyway (or, if people have noticed, they don't care).

Posted by: hope on June 17, 2003 12:36 PM

Cool...a cynic named Hope.

Posted by: Patrick on June 17, 2003 1:19 PM