Texas Homeland Security scandal brews

AUSTIN, Texas – A scandal is brewing in Texas related to the use of the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement resources to advance the partisan political agenda of the right-wing extremists who control the state and federal governments.

State Rep. Kevin Bailey (D-Houston) recently said that the state’s Homeland Security point person, Assistant Attorney General Jay Kimbrough, contacted the FBI office in Ardmore, Okla., presumably to ask for the bureau’s assistance in finding the 51 Texas legislators who walked out of the legislature in May. The lawmakers had left Texas to deny a quorum to the assembly so as to block a redistricting bill that would have carved up the state’s congressional districts in such a way that five to seven new right-wing extremist Republicans would be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Furthermore, on June 7 the Washington Post reported that “at least three federal agencies had been pressed, under murky circumstances, into helping track down [Rep. Pete] Laney’s plane.” Laney is the former speaker of the Texas House from Hale Center who flew his private plane to Ardmore to join the others. According to the Post, federal and state officials have also acknowledged that the air interdiction center, a section of the Homeland Security Dept. based in Riverside, Calif., responsible for tracking down terrorists and drug traffickers, was asked by state officials to track down Laney’s plane and that they did so.

The Post also reported that FBI agent David Troutman was asked by state officials to help find the missing legislators and provided help on May 12 and 13. Troutman did in fact call state Rep. Juan Escobar (D-Kingsville), who was in Ardmore along with the other Democrats, on his cell phone to find out where he was.

President George W. Bush and his advisor, Karl Rove, may have been involved as well. The Post reported on June 8 that Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told him in a telephone conversation that U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas had talked with Bush and Rove about the matter. Lieberman subsequently sent a follow-up letter to Card asking for more details on the conversation to determine the extent of White House involvement.

The hint of scandal may have caused Republicans to back down temporarily from their redistricting power grab. Gov. Rick Perry was set to announce on June 9 a special redistricting session of the legislature, possibly for July. In anticipation of the session, House Speaker Tommy Craddick (R-Amarillo) had scheduled redistricting hearings. It now appears that Craddick has canceled or postponed these hearings until further notice.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org