Poopgate Update: DPS Releases Documents

The Capitol rotunda's ground floor full of state troopers after the Senate passed sweeping new abortion restrictions last month.
Patrick Michels
The Capitol rotunda's ground floor full of state troopers after the Senate passed sweeping new abortion restrictions last month.

Updated below at 4:50 pm:

Today, the Texas Department of Public Safety released 144 pages of documents—emails and text messages primarily—related to the ongoing #Poopgate controversy. DPS initially resisted attempts from the media and others to access the information under the Texas Public Information Act but later relented. DPS claims that this is the entirety of the relevant information. The agency has redacted some personal information.

You can read the documents here—chime in with whatever catches your eye in the comments.

What the documents show is that DPS collected and shared information, including rumors and off-hand Twitter remarks as well as Facebook postings, about pro-choice protesters during the showdown in the Senate in July. “Per Lt. Esquivel, rumors are out there saying that the orange women will be taking off their clothes, urinating and defecating in the Senate gallery today,” wrote Susan Fafrak, an analyst in the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division of the Texas Fusion Center, in an email on Friday, July 12. “I am still searching form [sic] some sort of confirmation of this.”

Based on the documents released by DPS today, their hottest sources of intel are tweets from pro-life activists or Republican legislative staffers, or pro-choice protesters joking about the rumors’ absurdity. The documents suggest a law enforcement agency joining in the echo chamber. We’re waiting for a response from DPS on what advantage closely monitoring social media accounts provided the agency, and other questions.

Three bricks photographed by Texas DPS
Texas Department of Public Safety
A photo of bricks included in the Department of Public Safety’s Poopgate documents released monday.

The documents also demonstrate that DPS director Steve McCraw was upset about press coverage questioning the lack of evidence that protesters had tried to bring jars of feces and urine into the Senate. Internally, DPS was able to find just three photos of prohibited items—apparently of paint and bricks—but none of those suspected jars.

Text messages also circulated among DPS personnel on July 15th, three days after the explosive end to the debate over new abortion restrictions. “Were any of you aware of urine or feces take during our shakedowns?” asked a text message from an unknown sender.

The responses: “Just what DPS put out on Email” and “I never observed any.” And, “I was inside the Senate Gallery and did not see or hear of any of the above being taken.”

A Gerardo Gonzalez also passed along information to an APD officer from pro-life activist Abby Johnson, quoting Johnson’s Facebook page, which warned that activists “are planning on getting arrested and being aggressive with prolifer.” Gonzalez wrote to Leverenz that “[Pro-choicers] are very angry, hurting people.”

A “Summary of Open Source Activity” offers a timeline of anonymous tips related to possible “threats” at the Capitol from June 27 through July 13.

It’s not immediately apparent from the documents where the “intelligence” came from regarding the jars of feces and urine. The source of the rumors about the jars of feces and menstrual blood appear to come from a July 11th conversation on the Last Stand with Texas Women Facebook event page. Elliott Weeks in DPS’ media and communications department emailed screen grabs of that page to otherDPS personnel on July 15th, three days after the explosive Capitol showdown.

Update: A DPS spokesman responded to questions from the Observer. Here are the question we posed and the agency’s response in its entirety.

1)      What advantage did closely monitoring social media accounts provide DPS?

We do not discuss security measures or methods.

2) How did DPS gather intelligence on the meetings of activist groups? Were there undercover law enforcement personnel present at the meetings?

We do not discuss security measures or methods.

3) The documents still do not show any evidence of those “suspected” jars of feces and urine despite Director McCraw’s requests to produce any photos showing potential disruptive objects. Was DPS definitively unable to locate any photographic (or other) of these items?

We have no additional information to provide you.

4) Is it routine for DPS to monitor the social media accounts of private citizens?

We do not discuss security measures or methods.

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Published at 2:22 pm CST
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