It's amazing what
it takes to start a feeding
frenzy these days. But this may do it.
Yesterday, in testimony before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Tom Ridge again declined to release the full transcripts of the taped conversations between his agency (DHS) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) because the tapes were the subject of "potentially a criminal investigation."
Now, as I noted in yesterday's post, there are lots of reasons already detailed in published reports that tell you that folks at the DPS and likely some Texas state pols giving them direction are in some trouble (filing false reports, document destruction, etc.).
The big question has been whether the trail of the particular skullduggery over the tracking of planes (the subject of a "potentially" criminal inquiry) leads back to a certain office in Washington, DC. To date, Majority Leader Tom DeLay has insisted that he did no more than provide "constituent service" for State House Speaker Tom Craddick in passing on to the Justice Department his requests for federal agents to arrest the runaway Dems.
Now it turns out that the information the DPS used to contact the Department of Homeland Security came directly from DeLay's office. Let's go to the story in Friday's Houston Chronicle ...
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay admitted Thursday he provided Texas Speaker Tom Craddick with the same information that state police used to enlist a homeland security agency in the search for runaway Democratic legislators.
DeLay said his staff used public information at the Federal Aviation Administration to track former Texas Speaker Pete Laney's airplane.
Laney was among 55 Democrats who broke a House quorum on May 12 to kill a congressional redistricting bill sought by DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Craddick and DeLay wanted the errant legislators arrested and returned to the House to force a vote on the bill.
"I was told at the time that that plane was in the air coming from Ardmore, Oklahoma, back to Georgetown, Texas," DeLay said of the FAA's information, which he said was also available on the agency's Web site. "I relayed that information to Tom Craddick."
Texas Department of Public Safety officers working in Craddick's office had the same information when it contacted a federal air interdiction agency to seek its help in finding Laney's airplane. The federal agency has since said it was misled into believing Laney's airplane was missing and possibly had crashed.
Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge, meanwhile, said Thursday his agency is investigating "potentially criminal" misuse of the federal air interdiction service by the DPS.
DeLay said he played no part in the DPS' decision to contact the federal air interdiction service. And Craddick denies knowing anything about how the DPS came to call the agency.
"I don't know who contacted who," Craddick said.
The chain of events and contacts connecting the Majority Leader to a criminal investigation is now drawing awfully tight. (Keep in mind: the entire redistricting map power grab was orchestrated from Washington by DeLay and it's increasingly apparent that much of the manhunt was too.) It'll be interesting to see whether this town's chief buzzmasters and propriety hounds start to take notice.