Texas Tizzy Over Border Data & Spending

     (CN) – The Texas Department of Public Safety sued Attorney General Ken Paxton to try to stop him from telling newspapers how much it spent on hotels for troopers it sent to the border, ostensibly to help the Border Patrol.
     The Austin American-Statesman and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram asked the DPS for “hotel invoices, receipts and payments records for DPS troopers deployed to Hidalgo County and Starr County for a specified time period,” for what former Gov. Rick Perry called “Operation Strong Safety.”
     Perry called it a “surge” to help the Border Patrol keep Mexicans out of Texas in the summer of 2014. At the time, before he left office, Perry was gearing up to seek the Republican nomination for president. He made criticism of the Obama administration’s immigration policies a central part of his campaign. Perry dropped out of the race this month for lack of support.
     Reporting in the Texas newspapers this summer has embarrassed the Texas DPS.
     On June 16, the American-Statesman recalled that the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Texas Highway Patrol, called the Border Patrol “an ‘equal partner’ in the success of Operation Strong Safety.”
     But the Border Patrol didn’t see it that way.
     In a May letter this year to Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, Border Patrol Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the Border Patrol “declined participation in the operation,” according to the American-Statesman.
     Castro asked Kerlikowske for information on the “surge” after the Texas DPS refused to give the data to him.
     Castro wasn’t the only disgruntled lawmaker.
     When the DPS in March this year asked for another $123 million to help “secure the border,” state Rep. Cesar Blanco blasted the DPS for taking credit for work done by the federal government, and failing to back up its claims with data.
     “The state has nothing to show for its money,” Blanco, D-El Paso, told El Paso Times on March 30.
     The complaints didn’t stop there.
     “DPS merged Border Patrol’s massive drug seizure statistics with its own to tout the operation’s effectiveness,” the American-Statesman reported in June, and when state lawmakers asked for “DPS-specific statistics,” the DPS refused.
     The newspaper said it learned on its own that the DPS was involved in fewer than 10 percent of the drug seizures for which it claimed credit.
     Public records law requires the DPS to sue the attorney general if it wants to keep secret information the attorney general wants to release. It did sue him, on Tuesday, claiming the information could endanger state troopers’ “physical safety” or create a “substantial threat of physical harm.”
     It also claims that the information is confidential because it involves “preventing, detecting, responding to, or investigating an act of terrorism or related criminal activity.”
     Abbott said that some of the information could be withheld, but not all of it.
     The DPS asked a Travis County judge to exempt it from disclosure under the “common-law physical safety exception” and the Homeland Security Act.
     The DPS is represented, oddly, by Attorney General Paxton.

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