"We got a problem, and I hope you can help me out. We had a plane that was supposed to be going from Ardmore, Oklahoma, to Georgetown, Texas. It had state representatives in it, and we cannot find this plane ..."
Those are the words of a Texas state trooper calling a division of the Department of Homeland Security to help locate a missing plane with government officials on board, according to a partial transcript of the conversation released yesterday by the Department of Homeland Security and excerpted here in Friday's Dallas Morning News.
As reports in various Friday morning papers make clear, the Texas Department of Public Safety, tricked the folks at Homeland into thinking that they were looking for a missing aircraft that might either have crashed or fallen victim to a terrorist attack when in fact they were just trying to track down those Democrats who refused to make a quorum call. "From all indications, this request from the Texas DPS was an urgent plea for assistance from a law enforcement agency trying to locate a missing, lost or possibly crashed aircraft," said Dean Boyd, spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Now, House Speaker Tom Craddick -- the guy who ordered the troopers to track the Dems down -- made great efforts yesterday to distance himself from the whole fiasco, telling reporters he'd instructed troopers to find the fugitive Dems but had not involved himself in any way in how they did it.
The Dallas Morning News, however, was able to find out who the trooper in question was, identifying him as Lt. Will Crais, a "veteran fugitive-hunter" assigned to the DPS's Special Crimes Division. Now, the interesting detail is that Crais "was working on the hunt for the missing lawmakers, an effort that was run out of a conference room next to Mr. Craddick's office [emphasis added]."
If this was all going in a conference room adjoining Speaker Craddick's office, that makes it a bit less credible that he didn't know anything about what they were doing.
And what about Tom DeLay? The Dallas Morning News article quotes DeLay aids saying that there was "no contact between his office and the Homeland Security Department or the FBI." But a DeLay aide told the Washington Post that the Majority Leader "did pass along to the Justice Department Craddick's inquiry on whether federal law enforcement could assist in the manhunt."
So DeLay had "no contact" with Homeland or FBI but he did "pass along to the Justice Department" a request from his man in Austin, Tom Craddick, asking the Feds to "assist in the manhunt." (Presumably, the reason to involve the Feds would be to bring them back across state lines.) Frankly, I don't think you've got to be too big a DeLay-o-phobe to think that, pretty much by his own admission, DeLay was involved in trying to get federal law enforcement involved in arresting those state Democratic legislators and hauling them back to Austin. In this context, the difference between 'passing along a request' and making a request really doesn't pass the laugh test.
Just draw back for a moment and ask the question: what on earth is a House Majority Leader doing passing on requests from a state House Speaker to the Justice Department, asking for federal officers to arrest members of his own legislature? Add to that the fact that none of the stories match up. Craddick says he made no effort to pull in the Feds. But DeLay says he passed along Craddick's request to pull in the Feds. All of which lends tremendous credence to the notion that Lt. Will Crais, shall we say, acted alone.