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Out of the House

State Rep. Kevin Bailey (D-Houston) has announced that his committee has finished its investigation of record-shredding by DPS and the security tapes.

“It may have been a technical violation of the law to destroy the documents. I don’t think there was an intent to cover up anything. So I don’t think there’s a need to look at it any further,” said Rep. Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, chairman of the House General Investigation Committee.

[…]

The committee chairman said his office talked to a DPS officer who called the federal Department of Homeland Security to help track a missing lawmaker’s plane. That investigator told the committee staff that he did not recall who initiated the phone call but denied the federal agency’s statements that he misled officials to make them believe the plane may have crashed.

Mr. Bailey said the committee can go no further concerning whether federal homeland security assets were abused.

And, he said, there is nothing more to pursue on the subject of Deputy Texas Attorney General Jay Kimbrough, the top state homeland security official, who was seen on a surveillance tape at a DPS command post for the manhunt.

Mr. Bailey said he has no choice but to accept statements from the Texas attorney general’s office that Mr. Kimbrough was present in his capacity as a state lawyer, advising DPS and House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, on legal issues related to the hunt.

“And if that’s the case, I don’t see a problem. On the other hand, obviously, if they used the federal agency that’s designed to get terrorists, that might be a problem,” Mr. Bailey said. “I’m not sure it’s anything that I can really, or we can really, get information on.”

With his involvement over, the rest of the work will be done by Travis County DA Ronnie Earle, who has convened a grand jury to determine if any laws were broken by DPS and its magical miracle shredding machine. There are also internal investigations being conducted by Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation regarding the propriety of DPS’s request to help them look for Laney’s plane.

Speaking of Homeland Security, they say that their investigation is almost over, but it’s not clear when their full findings will be made public.

James Burke, a deputy assistant inspector general at the Homeland Security Department, said Wednesday that the investigation will be concluded in the next few days.

But he said tapes shielded from public release because of the investigation will not be immediately available.

Those tapes are expected to illuminate facts surrounding the Texas Department of Public Safety’s request for help from the anti-terrorism agency’s air interdiction service to locate an airplane of former House Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center, one of the runaway Democrats.

“Our investigation is wrapping up soon,” Burke said. “We’re talking days, versus weeks. But there’s the report process, and that could take a while.”

Once the report on the investigation is complete, Burke said, it will be available to the public only through Freedom of Information Act requests.

It was unclear at what point the tapes of conversations between DPS and the Air & Marine Interdiction Coordination Center, an agency of the Homeland Security Department, will be made public.

Back in Texas, keep your eyes on State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth), who has filed a lawsuit to prevent DPS from destroying any more records related to their search for the Killer D’s. Burnam had filed an open records request for the DPS data before it was revealed to have been deleted, then got a temporary restraining order against DPS to halt any further records destruction. He has claimed to have a source inside DPS who has intimate knowledge of what DPS knew and when they knew it. Attorney General Greg Abbott has demanded to know who that source is, and now Burnam has pledged to reveal his source in a sworn deposition on Monday after a judge ruled that he must testify.

The ruling set up a showdown of sorts between Burnam and the Texas attorney general’s office, which Burnam suggested was trying to hide links between top Republicans and the DPS actions by fighting to squelch his lawsuit against the DPS.

At a hearing set for Monday, the Fort Worth Democrat will be asked to reveal the identity of a “well placed source inside DPS” on which Burnam based much of his lawsuit.

He said the source can corroborate his charge that DPS officials destroyed records illegally.

The records were sought by Burnam in an attempt to prove improper use of law enforcement assets in the hunt for AWOL Democrats who fled to Oklahoma two weeks ago, preventing a quorum and derailing a congressional redistricting bill favored by Republicans.

In court Wednesday, the deputy attorney general defending the DPS said he had doubts about Burnam’s source.

“If he knows of egregious acts going on now, why is he stalling? Why is he reluctant to come tell us about it?” Jeff Boyd asked visiting state District Judge Charles Campbell.

Outside the courtroom, Boyd, the state’s deputy attorney general for litigation, said he doubted Burnam’s source exists.

“He is calling me a liar, and I highly resent that,” Burnam said.

“The source does indeed exist, and it’s (a person) who is well placed inside DPS, and I will reveal that source” under oath on Monday, he said.

He charged that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office “is apparently trying to find out who a whistle-blower is rather than stopping the illegal shredding of documents.”

“I wonder what they have to cover up, especially with those AG people coming in and out of the command post,” Burnam said.

That should be fun.

The Austin American Statesman has a sharp editorial which deplores the use of Homeland Security for inappropriate purposes:

Homeland Security became linked to a partisan political squabble in Texas because the state Department of Public Safety called the federal agency and intimated that Laney’s plane might be missing. Who authorized the bogus call and who made it have been obscured by foggy memories and shredded records.

What isn’t in doubt is that the state police department called in a false alarm to the Homeland Security Department about Laney’s plane, bringing the federal authorities into a local political dispute. Nor is it in doubt that a DPS commander ordered the records of the call and investigation destroyed, and that an assistant state attorney general who is Gov. Rick Perry’s contact for Homeland Security was in and out of the command center set up to search for the missing Democrats by House Speaker Tom Craddick.

The attorney general’s office says that the assistant in question, Jay Kimbrough, was there on official business and doesn’t know whether he gave the Homeland Security number to DPS to make the call. It all smells like a backroom brainstorm that exploded and is being covered up.

Finally, Josh Marshall clues in Joe Biden about what’s been going on lately.

[We] now know that DeLay was personally involved in the effort to track down Laney’s plane. The chain of events went something like this:

Early on May 12, DeLay’s office called the FAA and received information about the whereabouts of Laney’s plane. Not long after that, DeLay spoke to Craddick by phone and passed along that information. Then, a short time later, Lt. Will Crais, a Texas state trooper working out of the command center in the conference room adjoining Craddick’s office, called the DHS and tricked them into helping search for the missing aircraft. The information Crais used was the information DeLay had passed on to Craddick.

It ain’t over yet.

UPDATE: From Josh Marshall:

On Thursday afternoon, I spoke to Burnam. He told me that he has “multiple sources” at the DPS who told him about the alleged document destruction. He also says he will identify his sources at the deposition on Monday, though he is currently trying to arrange some sort of whistleblower protection for them. When I asked Burnam why he thought the AG’s office placed such importance on finding out the identity of his sources, he said he thought “they are trying to find out what I know and who I know it from and how they can get to them.”

Can’t wait to hear it.

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2 Comments

  1. Morat says:

    From the overview I had of Texas’ record laws, I was pretty sure that DPS violated the law by shredding them so quickly. I couldn’t find an exact match, but similiar types of documents had to be kept a year or more.

  2. Morat says:

    Josh Marshall updated. According to him, Burnam filed his records request before the destruction. Which makes DPS’s actions absolutely illegal and punishable by jail time and a fine. (3 months, 4000).

    Oh, and the absolute loss of your career. No wonder DPS is frantic to find out what happened. Here’s hoping Burnam can arrange Whistleblower protection for his sources.

    If he can, and DPS did destroy the documents after a request, expect things to explode. If it wasn’t their idea, DPS isn’t going to take the fall….