WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Thursday requested that an investigation into the possible misuse of federal resources to track down Democratic lawmakers in Texas also examine whether documents were destroyed to cover up actions taken by the state Department of Public Safety. Newspaper accounts have reported that the Texas DPS ordered the destruction of documents relating to its request for help from the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center, an agency of the Homeland Security Department.
In the midst of a bitter legislative battle over a new redistricting plan, the DPS asked the AMICC to locate a small plane that belonged to former Texas House Speaker and current Democratic Rep. Peter Laney.
Last week, Lieberman asked that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge investigate the potential misuse of federal resources to settle a partisan political feud. The department’s office of the Inspector General has since launched an inquiry. Lieberman also asked the IG’s office to secure any federal records relevant to its investigation and to determine if any federal laws were broken.
“I am very concerned that DPS’s document destruction may hamper your investigation,” Lieberman wrote in a May 22, 2003, letter to Lisa Redman, the acting assistant Inspector General for Investigations at DHS. “The evidence contained in the DPS records may well be critical to answering a key question in your investigation: whether the use of federal resources was obtained through misleading or fraudulent means. And the destruction of such records raises troubling questions about whether those ordering the destruction in fact did so with the specific intent to impede inquiries such as yours.”
Following is a copy of Lieberman’s letter:
May 22, 2003Lisa Redman
Acting Assistant Inspector General for Investigations
Department of Homeland Security
1120 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Dear Ms. Redman:
I am appalled by recent news reports that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) ordered the destruction of all records related to its search for Texas state legislators. I am writing to ask that you investigate DPS’s document destruction as part of your ongoing examination of the use of Department of Homeland Security resources in the search for Texas lawmakers and that you take steps to ensure that additional, federal documents that may be relevant to your investigation are not destroyed.
As you know, last Monday, May 12, 2003, legislative leaders in Texas directed the DPS to round up missing Democratic legislators, and DPS enlisted the assistance of the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center (AMICC), an office within the Department of Homeland Security, in this search.
It has since been reported that on Wednesday, May 14, 2003, a DPS commander, in an e-mail message, ordered the destruction of all documents and other materials related to the search; this e-mail was reportedly forwarded to the lieutenant who has been identified as the individual who contacted AMICC. According to news accounts, the documents were destroyed shortly after the first news stories revealed that DPS had contacted the Department of Homeland Security seeking help in finding the lawmakers.
Last week, I wrote to Secretary Ridge urging him to conduct a full investigation into the apparent misuse of scarce Department of Homeland Security resources in the search for Texas state legislators. I understand that you are heading up the Department’s investigation into this matter, and I am very concerned that DPS’s document destruction may hamper your investigation. The evidence contained in the DPS records may well be critical to answering a key question in your investigation: whether the use of federal resources was obtained through misleading or fraudulent means. And the destruction of such records raises troubling questions about whether those ordering the destruction in fact did so with the specific intent to impede inquiries such as yours.
I therefore request that you expand your investigation to encompass this outrageous document destruction and immediately act to secure all federal documents (including e-mails and any audiotapes of conversations between DPS and AMICC), as well as any other materials, that may be relevant to your investigation. I also ask that you examine whether DPS’s instructions to destroy documents potentially relevant to a federal investigation may have constituted obstruction of justice or otherwise violated any federal law.
If for some reason you conclude that the destruction of documents related to DPS’s search for the state legislators is beyond the reach of your office, please advise me of this fact as soon as possible, as well as of the agency to which you intend to refer this matter.
If you have any questions concerning this letter, please contact Beth Grossman of my staff at (202) 224-9256.
Joseph I. Lieberman