ACLU of Texas Expresses Concern Over Surveillance Database

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
May 23, 2007 12:00 am

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Group Objects to Lack of Privacy Protections in Senate Bill

AUSTIN, TX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas expressed continued concern today that the intelligence database provisions in a recently passed state House bill do not go far enough in protecting the privacy of Texans. After passing the House two weeks ago, HB 13 has now passed the Texas Senate. The bill received a flurry of attention for its border security provisions and for putting the massive database into the governor’s hands, but many privacy protections have been stripped from it.

“We continue to believe that there should be a firewall between a political branch of government and sensitive intelligence data on all Texans,” said Rebecca Bernhardt, Director of the Immigration, Border and National Security Project at the ACLU of Texas. “It is important to balance the need for flexibility with the need to protect Texans from possible political use of this data.”

HB 13 still makes the Department of Public Safety (DPS) the “only state agency or state governmental entity that is authorized to develop, maintain and control access to the Texas Data Exchange (TDEx) or any other similar comprehensive intelligence database.”

However, the Senate version of the bill would enable staff and contractors who answer to the governor’s office to continue to provide project management and operational support for TDEx. Further, the new version of HB 13 strikes a provision in current law that may require the TDEx data to be moved from Kentucky to Texas under the physical supervision of DPS.

The ACLU of Texas is also troubled by a provision added to HB 13, as one of many floor amendments to the bill, that would require the collection of DNA from a broad range of lower-level and non-violent offenders, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to state and local governments.

The ACLU of Texas applauds the Senate for removing most of the immigration provisions from HB 13. “This is not an immigration bill but a homeland security bill,” said Bernhardt. “We applaud Chairman Carona and Senator Shapleigh’s leadership in removing controversial immigration provisions from the bill and focusing on the homeland security mission.”

The ACLU hopes the House and Senate conferees will continue to focus on homeland security as they consider how to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

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