The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports today that federal aircraft tracking facilities in California, which are part of the Department of Homeland Security, were instrumental in tracking down the truant Texas Democrats. The Star-Telegram mentions this fact in an article about the various means used by the Republican leadership of the Texas house to force the Democrats to return and vote on a gerrymandering bill that would cause them to loose a half dozen congressional seats. The tone of the article is similar to a humorous human interest piece. Comments from annoyed family members and offended taxpayers fill out the article.
While it showed an extreme lack of class on the part of the Republican leadership, most of the harassment of family members and staff was not especially bad. However, the use of federal anti-terrorism resources is a complete abuse of authority. Glenn W. Smith at Common Dreams nails the significance of this abuse:
It was no doubt a ham-fisted, incautious and bungled attempt (like the Watergate burglary) by Republicans to use all the law enforcement they could find to overcome the Democrats' temporary advantage.
But the use of the Homeland Security Department for partisan political purposes should alarm all Americans. It deserves a full, complete and independent investigation.
The warnings of civil libertarians appear to have been justified. Even if it turns out that some half-crazed Republican staffer or independent investigator called the Air and Marine Interdiction and Coordination Center, it raises disturbing questions about the operations of Homeland Security and the lengths Republicans will go enforce their will.
I would have expected conservatives from Texas to have more sensitivity to charges of big-brotherism. Of course I should have known better considering the conservative from Texas currently squatting in the White House.
PS If you haven't been following the adventures of the Killer D's, go read the last three days of posts at Off the Kuff. This is the best political theater we've had in years.