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Data in Search for Texas Democrats Destroyed

May 22, 2003|From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — A commander with the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered the destruction of all documents and photographs gathered in the search for the Democratic state legislators who fled to Oklahoma to block a congressional redistricting bill.

The order was issued by e-mail May 14, a day before the Democrats ended their boycott and returned to Texas, department spokesman Tom Vinger said.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats on the House floor in Washington pushed for more information Wednesday from the Homeland Security Department on its role in the search.

The Texas safety department issued a statement Wednesday saying it destroyed the records because federal regulations prohibit it from keeping intelligence information that is not part of a criminal case.

But state Rep. Kevin Bailey, the Democratic chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, said it appears that that is true only for a federal investigation or an investigation funded by federal money.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Tuesday he would review a decision to withhold information about his agency's involvement.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Homeland Security Department, has said it responded to a request to help track the plane of state Rep. James E. "Pete" Laney when he and other Democrats did not show up for the scheduled May 12 redistricting debate. More than 50 Democratic legislators left the state and did not return until after the May 15 deadline for passage of House bills.

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