Here’s what we know so far: We have a new entity here in Texas called the Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security. It is chaired by Texas Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, whose chief credential is that he was the CIA’s number two man in Bolivia in 1971. That was the year that Hugo Banzer Suarez ousted President Juan Jose Torres with behind-the-scenes support from the U.S.; within two years the Banzer government had imprisoned some 2,000 political dissidents without trial. Fast forward a few decades and the first order of business for Dewhurst, now a candidate for Lt. Governor, is to take out a nice, glossy ad in Texas Monthly promoting himself and his new position. The Chairman tells us to support the President and our armed forces in their battle against terrorism (and while you’re at it, Vote for Me!). But there’s a little glitch: The soldier standing at attention in the publicity photo is actually a German officer. Obviously the Dewhurst campaign brain trust missed the little German flag on his nameplate. Are we feeling safe yet?
Admittedly this was not an auspicious start for the Texas Homeland. But let’s move on to substance. So, just what is the Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security really up to? We sent reporter Anne Farbman to find out. So far the Task Force has met just twice. (A third meeting was scheduled for November 27 as this issue was going to press.) As Farbman describes in this issue, much of the business of the meetings she attended was tabled to closed door sessions. But by far the most telling public exchange she heard was the one between Dewhurst and Rick Mosquera, an FBI Special Agent from the Bureau’s Houston office. The Chairman insisted that for several years U.S. foreign intelligence had its hands tied because of human rights considerations. “Are you similarly restricted,” he asked Mosquera, “or are you aggressively pursuing the penetration of terrorist organizations?”
The idea that the World Trade Center towers collapsed and the Pentagon was attacked because of restrictions on U.S. foreign intelligence is a particularly nefarious myth that several conservative pundits and present and former government officials began peddling within hours of the September 11 attacks. Yet CIA regulations do not prohibit agents from using unsavory characters when necessary–they just require agents to inform their superiors. CIA spokesmen questioned in the wake of the attacks have stated on the record that the agency has never turned down a field request to recruit an asset in a terrorist organization.
Dewhurst’s background, the overly military tilt of the Task Force, which includes eight current and former military servicemembers and several current and former law enforcement personnel (including former FBI director William Sessions), the emphasis on closed door meetings–these things do not bode well for the fledgling task force. The next hearing is scheduled for El Paso on December 17. Perhaps there’s still time to remind the Chairman of just what it is that he’s supposed to be protecting.