Monday, November 10, 2008

Consultant recommends DPS create 'Special Ops' team for snooping

Speaking of political snooping, check out this troubling passage from the recently issued Deloitte and Touche consultant recommendations (pdf, p. 14) for reorganizing the Texas Department of Public Safety:
Deloitte recommends creation of a new Special Operations Group within the new Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Division to be explicitly intelligence driven. The Special Operations Group should collect investigative and intelligence data on threats, terrorism and violent criminal gangs. It would perform counter-surveillance on key facilities like the Governor’s Mansion and State Capitol. It would perform surveillance on possible terrorists and violent criminal enterprises, provide back-up undercover investigators to infiltrate such organizations (emphasis added) and directly fill intelligence gaps through collection in a rapid fashion.
If the "violent criminal enterprises" they're talking about "infiltrating" are Mexican drug cartels or prison gangs, that's one thing. If they're talking about infiltrating dissident political organizations, as we've seen from the UT-Austin police or, in another era, from the Nixon Administration, my inclination would be to oppose undercover infiltration except where DPS is investigating a specific crime or criminal organization based on articulable reasonable suspicion. Another section of the report makes it sound like a more common use of the proposed Special Operations Group would be to gather intelligence on groups that might protest the Governor or other key political figures:
The Division should have a Special Operations unit, which would be deployed to conduct protective counter-surveillance on the Governor’s protection detail, the Lieutenant Governor, visiting dignitaries, the State Capital and Governor’s Mansion. The protection of these potential targets should be intelligence driven. ...

The Special Operations group would be the “eyes and ears” of the Intelligence & Counter- Terrorism division by tasking and deploying “collectors” of information deemed to be important to the overall intelligence and counter-terrorism effort. The unit should be organized to enable it to shift quickly into law enforcement operations, based upon threat intelligence.
The section of the Deloitte report on intelligence (intentionally?) conflates combating "terrorism" with more mundane but much more common law enforcement duties and also DPS' protective service duties regarding elected officials and state facilities. That leaves the door wide open for abusing this authority without further clarification. There are not enough checks and balances currently proposed in the Deloitte report to ensure abuses won't occur.

In addition, Deloitte supports throwing good money after bad by integrating the state's near-worthless "fusion centers," which have been a black hole for spending with virtually no demonstrable public safety benefit, into DPS' new intelligence division they've proposed:
Deloitte recommends significantly expanding the capabilities of the existing Fusion Center at DPS to become the State’s central point for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of criminal, terrorist, and homeland security related information. The center should seek to integrate its activities with those of regional fusion centers in Houston and North Texas, as well as significantly increasing representation of local and federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies on the team.
Admittedly these programs haven't been well coordinated, but that's because the Fusion Centers and border security grants were political stunts the Governor and the Lege were pushing for electioneering purposes, not initiatives driven by law enforcement needs. The state would do well to scrap the fusion centers, keep DPS criminal intelligence services integrated into their investigative units, and leave the political snooping to the FBI.


Anonymous said...

In England many towns are twisting snoop laws intended for anti-terrorism into planting cameras to catch citizens putting their trash cans out earlier than local ordinance allows.

The Daily Mail calls this intelligence operation "The dustbin Stasi."

See for the story. Thanks to Bruce Schneier's blog for the pointer.

I can't wait until DPS Special Ops begins spying on us, can you? It should be a field day for absurdity.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that they will use this to justify snooping on political groups, and say "we were told we should by a consultant."

Deloitte isn't exactly known for its in-house Constitutional scholars. May as well be dealing with the Bobs from Office Space.

Anonymous said...

As the Sheriff of Harris County if you can have his secret spy squad.
He's not using them any more.

Anonymous said...

"The section of the Deloitte report on intelligence (intentionally?) conflates combating "terrorism" with more mundane but much more common law enforcement duties and also DPS' protective service duties regarding elected officials and state facilities."

First of all, one needs to put the Deloitte contract and the Deloitte firm under close scrutiny and see how much that firm contributes to candidates for office. Records of this nature are increasingly closed to the public.

Secondly, the quoted sentence above nicely describes the bending of definitions of terms and the combining of concepts and general fuzziness or vagueness of the language which is quite deliberate. It has always served to allow government operatives very wide latitude in their conduct of office.

Thirdly, I would just say that every time you see any level of government use the terms "terrorism" or "terrorist", just substitute the word "control" and you will have a more truthful picture of what is being implemented. Also the term "terrorist" in the PATRIOT Act and other post 9-11 draconian unconstitutional laws includes U.S. citizens who have "broken a law" or "broken the law" and can mean whoever the president or executive branch identifies as a "terrorist".

All of this is the perfect recipe for totalitarian police state in U.S.A.

Infiltrating groups with government agent provacateurs and spys probably was happening long before conintelpro of the 60s and 70s.

I always end up exercising my activism on issues as an individual and dropping out of groups. I find I can take actions which to me seem more like real actions and not meetings and fundraisers that groups can spend all their time doing. I have observed that groups often seem to be channeled or strongly guided to stay in do-nothing-meaningful mode.

The reason the American Revolution worked is that the revolting were already organized groups of townships and small communities and "militias". They were organized and all believed in a common purpose, a purpose clearly antithetical to liberty of the individual.

I do not believe a revolution will work today because we have no organized groups because the thugs holding the power make sure that is not possible.

P.S. There was a special on KXAN Channel 4 TV last night on the DPS. Saw about 15 minutes of Allen Polunsky and State Rep. I think her last name was McClendon and just had to turn it off. It was such a lying misrepresentation and set-up to put in solutions that only feed totalitarian police state and the vaterland polezei.

Anonymous said...

oh, come on y''s just the texas version of the secret police. it worked great in east germany, why can't it work here? we all know the u.s. constitution went out the window with the war on terrorism
(or was it the war on drugs?)

Anonymous said...

New and unaccountable snoops, violation cams coming to the highways and by-ways, no probable cause roadblocks, yep, those taliban guys hate us 'cause we're free, right?

Anonymous said...

You need to dig deeper and see how all of this was orchestrated just to get rid of all of the DPS top brass because they would not succumb to the crazy ideas and privacy violations concocted by Governor Perry and his henchman Steve McCraw. Stand by and watch as they maneuver and eventually make McCraw Director of DPS so Perry can better control the agency to do whatever it is he wants. There is virtually no one left at the top because they have been forced out for trying to do the right thing and giving McCraw push back. It is just like the checkpoint issue, McCraw wants to hold immigration checkpoints however it would appear the political pressure got to be too much and the Chairman of DPS had to back down. The study is full of errors and lies about DPS’ performance. I guess Deloitte sold its integrity (and why not for a million dollars) and let McCraw and others working for Perry concoct a plan to allow them to put all of their cronies in the newly created Deputy and Assistant Director positions. Texas has always had a state police that was free from political pressure until Perry came to office. He is setting this up so that he and future governors can put their people into these director positions that will be at will positions, can change with every governor and use their resources against political foes. If the legislature allows this to continue, Texas will never be the same. Keep up the good work Scott.