Page 15


dom in the name of security.” Dewhurst acknowledged the letter at the hearing on November 8, saying the task force would discuss testimony from the ACLU “at a later date.” Despite the secrecy, there are already some indications that Texas is in for an increase in domestic surveillance. In the truncated discussion of intelligence gathering at the October 11 meeting, task force member and Texas Public Safety Commissioner Colleen McHugh announced that the Department of Public Safety was “back in the intelligence business.” Homeland security at DPS will be handled by the department’s Special Crimes Service Unit, which has already received $200,000 of Governor Perry’s announced $1.2 million grant to train local law enforcement agencies in intelligence operations. In fact, DPS has always had an intelligence division, since the agency was created in 1935. Originally charged with the “identification and investigation of subversive forces” during World War II, the Bureau of Intelligence, as it was then known, became the central database on “un-American activ ities in Texas.” The unit later changed its name to the Crime Intelligence Service, which earned a reputation for spying on Texas political activists. During the movement against the Vietnam War, according to Austin Attorney Jim Simons, the Criminal Intelligence Service acted as “sort of a red squad:’ photographing and surveilling his clients. The objective, Simons said, was to discourage people from going to demonstrations. “DPS seemed to think that any kind of demonstration was a violation of law,” he recalled. In 1996, the CIS became the Special Crimes Service and officially broadened its focus from purely intelligence to organized crime and gambling regulation. Until recently, the SCS was the only non-federal organization in Texas permitted to own, install, or operate wiretapping equipment; local police agencies had to jurisdictions. The prospect of the SCS reorienting itself to “securityrelated” intelligence gathering is possibly the development of most concern to civil libertarians. Early signs indicate a larger role for the department. Among the Task Force’s recommendations, released November 8, was a little-noticed item recommending “funding of additional personnel and training” for the Special Crimes Service. This funding, according to debate during the November hearing, will primarily come from federal grants and the governor’s discretionary fund, neither of which are subject to legislative oversight in Texas. In deciding on the final wording of the recommendation, Armbrister insisted that the grants must be provided “without a specific area of expenditure” and with minimal oversight in order to avoid “micromanagement.” Dewhurst concurred, stating that “an ounce of prevention is worth, in this case, tons of cure.” For his part, Armbrister has already done much to erode restrictions on law enforcement intelligence gathering practices. Last session, a bill that expanded wiretapping authority to local police forces and relaxed restrictions on “emergency phone intercepts, and “trap-and-trace” devices was authored by DPS counsel David Boatwright and sponsored by Armbrister. The bill became law this year. “Its strange that he would talk about [excessively] limiting law enforcement,” at the Task Force hearing, commented Ann Del Llano, an attorney with the Police Accountability Project, “especially in light of his legislative history.” Neither Del Llano nor the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association had heard of any case in Texas where wiretap evidence had been successfully challenged under existing law. Expanding the laws further, said the ACLU’s Henson, “would be a disaster for Texans’ privacy rights.” Is it likely to happen? Jim Simons, the veteran Austin civil rights attorney, does not like what he sees. “The levee is about to break in terms of civil liberties:’ he said. Anne Farbman is a freelance writer living in Austin. Penny Van Horn 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 12/7/01