Thursday, May 03, 2007

HB 13: The Governor's Great Border Security Power Grab

The Governor's big homeland security bill, HB 13 by Swinford, heads to the House floor today and if I had my druthers they'd shoot the sucker down.

The legislation places many law enforcement and intelligence gathering functions under the purview of the Governor's office, opening the door to all sorts of problems with both the functionality and credibility of border security operations. That's especially problematic since, under the rubric of homeland security, the Governor's office created a massive, Big Brother-esque database. After its creation, nobody could say who was in charge of the database, who was in it, or even what happened to the data after it was given to a private defense contractor.

Rep. Jessica Farrar has issued a press release, reprinted by Kuff here, which details problems with the bill more substantively. Though it's improved since the original filed version, it's still a piece of unnecessary junk - basically a power grab by the Governor - and Farrar's release ably demonstrates how and why.

In addition, chiefs of police on the border have come out in opposition to the bill. How much extra security do you think the bill will provide when even police chiefs don't like it?

There's one thing I find particularly odd about all this. Rep. Farrar and the bill language itself say the legislation would "create" the Texas Fusion Center, which is a massive, secretive, centralized intelligence gathering operation that analyzes info from all levels of law enforcement.

Not only is that redundant with the Department of Public Safety's criminal intelligence division, the "Fusion Center" as I understand it is already in operation - apparently without legal authority. I say that because when the Lege in 2005 removed restrictions on law enforcement's use of fingerprints from the driver license database, Gov. Perry's Texas Fusion Center immediately took the data and gave it to the feds to run against unnamed criminal and terrorism databases.

So this bill won't create the Fusion Center, it will only give cover to Gov. Perry for initiating such projects (like the TDEX database) without legislative authority or approval. The Texas House should send a message to the Governor that he cannot operate above the law and should cease politicizing public safety and border security.

MORE: The Texas Observer has three excellent posts about HB 13 on its blog this morning, see here, here, and here.

See prior, related Grits coverage:

1 comment:

billt said...

where's the msm coverage of this? i don't think i've seen anything about the fusion center (what a name!) and only one or two articles about tdex. Is it the stasi being reborn? is the Hmm. makes me wonder about what's REALLY going on with perry, dewhurst, et. al.