Texas DPS Secret Snitch Program- Sentry
Sentry, is an online snitch program run by the Department of Public Safety. Sentry allows the public to make anonymous reports of criminal/terrorist activity. From the DPS website-
Take an active role in Texas Homeland Security! Join in the war on terrorism by submitting information about unusual, suspicious and/or criminal activities. You CAN make a difference! Take an active role in Texas Homeland Security! Join in the war on terrorism by submitting information about unusual, suspicious and/or criminal activities. You CAN make a difference!
Citizen Informants- Historically Not Good For Freedom
Let us start with the obvious.Turning citizens into a vigilante spy network is not the work of a limited government. Historically, only tyrants have used such methods. The Stasi and KGB both used citizen informants extensively.
Our government, state and federal, knows that the public will accept almost any program to “fight terrrorism.” Ergo, Sentry is not a “snitch on your neighbor for drugs” program. Sentry is for “homeland security.”
I was hoping to shed some light on this program. I wanted to see what “terrorist” activity was being reported. Just like DWI roadblocks are really used to find drugs, I expected to find that Sentry was really being used to catch illegal aliens and drug users.
Sentry received over 2,000 reports during 2007. I filed an open records and asked for a copy. The typical bureaucratic reflexes (stall, delay, never disclose) set in and DPS filed for an Attorney General Opinion.
AG Opinion- Keep The Snitching Secret
The AG ruled and- I lost. These records are going to be kept secret unless I file a lawsuit. How was open government defeated?
First of all, DPS filed their response after the 10 day deadline. It should not have been considered. Procedure aside, here is the AG’s logic.
1. Texas Open Records Law allows information to be kept from disclosure if the information is confidential by law.
2. No Texas law makes this information confidential.
3. However, a federal law on intelligence databases prevents this information from becoming public.
How does a federal law apply to Texas Open Records? Bribery. The Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 is merely a grant program. If a state wants federal cash, they have to play by the rules. Texas, like all states, has chosen to take the money and adopt federal standards for Texas law enforcement.
A side note on limited government/federalism. An expansive federal government that seeks to solve all problems (education, health care, retirement, crime) is anathematic to state’s rights and liberty.
Here is how the federal grant hustle works. The feds annually take billions from the citizens of each state. If a state wants to recover the money they have to sign away their sovereignty. If you want education dollars you have to follow No Child Left Behind. If you want highway money then no drinking under 21.
If a state does not take part in this extortion then their citizen’s money will go to another state. It’s a crooked system and a reason why our federal government was supposed to be limited. Decisions about Texas Open Records should be made by Texans. A Senator from Oregon or a Rep from Kansas has no business deciding Texas law.