Saturday, July 03, 2010

Secret government camera surveillance approved by appellate court

I've been meaning to blog about the outcome of the Texas Observer's lawsuit over access to surveillance camera footage, but it's somehow just seemed too depressing. (See Dave Mann's "For their eyes only: After 5 years and $240,000, DPS keeps Capitol video hidden," June 17.)

The language that allowed concealing surveillance video from the taxpayers who paid for it was enacted in the 2003 session - Texas' first after 9/11 -  in what I considered the biggest "loss" among all the homeland security legislation that passed that year. DPS and the University of Texas were the two entities pushing for the change. A compromise bill had come out of the House with language that would not have concealed security camera information, but state Sen. Jeff Wentworth tacked on an amendment in the Senate that made secret information that “relates to the specifications, operating procedures or location of a security system,” terminology that came directly from an open records request UT-Austin was fighting from The Daily Texan.  That's the wording the Third Court of Appeals now says allows surveillance video to be withheld.

Looking back in my files, I found this 2-page flyer (pdf) that was distributed at the end of the legislative process asking (unsuccessfully) Texas House members to refuse concurrence with the Senate amendments because of the addition of this language. It makes the case why the change was a bad idea better than I could replicate on the fly nearly a decade hence. The ruling against the Observer confirms my worst fears about that language - that however innocuous it sounded, it would be interpreted sweepingly, which is exactly what happened.

5 comments:

Rev.charlestulia said...

Not good. I hope this is reversed by the lege in '11

R. Shackleford said...

I don't have to read Orwell or Rand anymore, I can just read the news. This big brother crap is getting WAY out of hand.

Anonymous said...

To R. Shackleford....You said it brother! Wait until we get the mark of the beast.

R. Shackleford said...

Mm, no identity chips for me or my family. I'll take lead over silicon. And give some away, too.

Anonymous said...

Does this have any direct affect on business in chambers for the lege? it might be something that proves to be self-serving.