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4:,:g a, VaUSTS 02.P.m… legal representation for teenagers to make a r PIs, continued from page 5 employ both loopholes “activist judges” for not following the legislative intent of the law. Since September 1, 2003, the number of state jail felons sentenced to county jail in Harris County has grown by 188 percent. The lock-’em-up philosophy of Gov. Perry has guaranteed that either a widespread prison crisis or an expensive prison construction boom is in the state’s immediate future. During the regular legislative session that concluded in May, both chambers passed House Bill 2193, a bipartisan probation reform measure that would have lessened overcrowding in prisons by reducing the recidivism that results from minor technical parole violations. Facing vociferous opposition from county prosecutors and a tough primary challenge, Gov. Perry vetoed the measure. WEB WHISTLEBLOWERS On August 9, President George W. Bush asked for the resignation of Arturo Duran, head of the International Boundthe end of the month, Duranrecommended to the post by Laura Bush’s college roommatewas gone, the final chapter of a remarkable employee insurrection at the IBWC that could raise the hopes of government whistleblowers everywhere. Nominally an agency of the State Department, the IBWC is not well-known to the public but performs essential services along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico boundary, including the maintenance of levees and dams on the Rio Grande that protect communities from flooding in South Texas and Mexico. The agency’s mission was being jeopardized by the actions of Duran, IBWC dissidents said. When they failed to interest Duran’s superiors in their allegations, a core group of three individuals, buttressed by “many, many, many” supporters within the IBWC and calling themselves the “Freelance Troublemakers,” took action. Two organizers of the campaign, a professor and an IBWC employee, both of whom requested anonymity, described to the Observer how they and other agency employees set out to save their commission by ousting Duran. In August 2004, they wrote an unsigned letter to the State Department’s Inspector General detailing allegations of misconduct and abuse of power. With the help of whistleblowers convinced the inspector general to launch an extensive investigation. In a scathing report released in March, the investigators found that Duran had “little apparent interest in the realities of his own agency” and had instilled “a climate of fear and disaffection” among his personnel. As a result, critical maintenance of levees and dams fell behind, worrying farmers and residents from El Paso to the lower Rio Grande Valley. Despite the inspector general’s findings, Congress and the White House failed to act. Frustrated, the whistleblowers turned to the Internet. On July 4th they launched a slick and very entertaining website, , as a means of publicizing and ridiculing Duran’s shenanigans. As documents poured in from IBWC employees, they were vetted and put up on the site, usually accompanied by the Freelance Troublemakers’ acerbic commentary. People took notice. The Congressional Border Caucus held hearings and powerful senators such as Kay Bailey Hutchison started talking to the White House. Within a month of the site’s launch, President Bush asked Duran to resign. “By putting everything in front of peoplenot just the allegations, but the documents that support the allegations,” the whistle blowers’ cause became impossible to ignore, contends one IBWC employee. The whistleblow ers’ website is a veritable rap sheet of Duran transgressions. It documents, for instance, the commissioner’s gutting of experienced staff, hiring of personal friends, use of agency funds for personal trips to Washington, D.C., mistreatment of the IBWC’s Mexican counterparts, and even includes Duran’s attempt to lease a Cadillac Escalade with “raven black, shale nuance leather seating surfaces” and a load of custom features for almost $12,000 annually. The documents were given to the website operators by “dozens of people within IBWC,” many of whom risked their jobs to do so, said one of the ringleaders. “I think what is so beautiful is that a website was instrumental in bringing down the head of an agency. And it was all done with reverse secrecy. In this case secrecy was used as a means of exposing abuse,” said the source. “There was a way to have this information accrete anonymously in a single source that was available to anyone with a computera place where this stuff just stacked up… The grassroots nature of it is just astonishing.” SEPTEMBER 9, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31