Travel Security Records Remain Secret in Texas

     (CN) – A Texas state judge in Austin ruled Thursday that the Texas Department of Public Safety does not have to release travel records of Governor Rick Perry’s security staff.
     “It’s a sad, sad world where we have to do this… and it leads to less transparency,” state District Judge Scott Jenkins said.
     According to the Austin American-Statesman, Jenkins’ ruling reverses a decision he made in 2008 when he held the information can be made public under Texas Public Information Act requests by the Statesman, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News.
     On Thursday, Jenkins concluded that releasing travel voucher and receipt information could compromise the governor’s safety.
     The suit was filed in 2007 after the newspapers requested the information to see how taxpayer money was spent on bodyguards while Perry or his wife, Anita, traveled to Europe, Mexico, Japan, and Turkey, among other places, from 2001 to 2007.
     The 3rd Court of Appeals of Texas in Austin later agreed with Jenkins’
     initial ruling, but the Texas Supreme Court reversed in July 2011, reasoning that, “the public’s right to ‘complete information’ must yield when disclosure of that information would substantially threaten physical harm.”
     On Thursday, Jenkins said he has little choice but to grant the state’s motion for summary judgment in light of the Supreme Court’s direction that he consider “prospective” harm.
     Jenkins also denied a request by the newspapers to require the release at least one travel voucher per trip so that taxpayers could be assured that money was not misspent, the Statesman reported.
     Jenkins said that someone with a “devious mind” could exploit patterns in the security details actions that he saw while reviewing 8,000 pages of travel records.
     “It’s a sad day when every requestor is being treated like Osama bin Laden,”
     plaintiffs’ attorney William Christian told the judge, according to the American-Statesman report.
     In response to he filing of the case, the Texas Legislature approved a measure that would make security detail travel vouchers public after 18 months and would be subject to the Supreme Court’s prospective harm standard, the Statesman reported.

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