A few years ago, a top official in the sheriff’s office stood before the Hays County commissioners court asking for permission to participate in a program integrating local law enforcement information systems into a unified network. Everything was sounding pretty reasonable to this reporter until the man played the terrorist card, saying Hays County sits on Interstate 35 and is consequently a likely gateway for militants entering the country through Mexico.
It’s easy to scoff at this sort of thing as Barney-Fife-meets-Jack-Bauer. So let’s do.
It is of course no joke to the people we’d tend to blame if something did happen and, say, it was found that a terrorist had been stopped in San Marcos for a traffic violation and let go because the officer didn’t know he was Osama bin Laden’s houseboy or something. That’s the thing with hypotheticals. One never really knows. Still, employing the prospect of a terrorist attack as a rationale for an almost entirely law enforcement function is a bit of a stretch, if not a big one.
Now it seems this sort of homeland security ethic extends even to weather watching. A few weeks ago, The Mercury printed an e-mail circulating among local emergency management officials on Gustav, which at the time seemed to be trending this direction. There was nothing therein that seems even remotely sensitive but when a similar debriefing summary circulated earlier this week, it carried this rather heavy-handed “warning.”
“Warning: This document is FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY (FOUO). It contains information that may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552). It is to be controlled, stored, handled, transmitted, distributed, and disposed of in accordance with HCOEM policyrelating to FOUO information and is not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid “need-to-know” without prior approval of an authorized Hays County Emergency Management official. No portion of this correspondence should be furnished to the media, either in written or verbal form.”
The Mercury says: Pick your battles, even imaginary ones.
— BRAD ROLLINS