DPS Releases Poopgate Docs
Emails do little to prove security threat
It seems Texas DPS is SOL in its efforts to back up allegations that protestors planned to throw jars of urine and feces at lawmakers during the recent abortion law debate. A newly released stack of emails and texts has done little to back up this claim.
The documents were obtained by the Texas Observer and placed online as part of the ongoing investigation into claims by DPS that troopers "discovered one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected to contain feces, and three bottles suspected to contain paint" during the debate on abortion restrictions in House Bill 2 (see "Tampongate Revealed!," July 12.) The accusations were made to back up the need for the enhanced security at the Senate gallery, including the nationally ridiculed seizure of tampons.
What quickly emerged was how the agency spun into damage control as they were bombarded with questions from reporters. By July 14, DPS Director Steve McCraw was exchanging frustrated emails with Chief of Staff Robert Bodisch. McCraw wrote, "I am tired of reading that we made this stuff up. Let's get the photos we have to members and the media." Unfortunately for McCraw, those photos have yet to materialize. In fact, Capitol District Commander Jose Ortiz informed him that "troopers were not directed to take photos."
Ultimately, there is little within the released documents to back up any of the claims, or any arrests. In a series of texts (the identity of the recipients and the senders were redacted, but presumably either DPS or Senate employees) on July 15, the question was asked, "Were any of you aware of urine or feces taken during our shakedowns?" All three respondents said no, with one even replying, "Just what DPS put out on email." That backs up reporting by the Texas Tribune that its journalists could not find a single DPS trooper who had seen any of the alleged excrement.
So where did the rumors come from? On the day, much of the "intel" that DPS used seems to have been idle chatter on social media, or as it is repeatedly dubbed in the records, "open source reports." Most tellingly, some of it came from anti-choice activists like former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson. Seemingly every action by anti-HB 2 protestors was taken as a potential threat – even when they were obeying the rules. When two unnamed organizers were seen taking food from other people, rather than letting them try to take it into the Senate gallery (where it is banned), one email suggested "they maybe [sic] planning to use the food and drinks to trash the place." Texas DPS Intelligence & Counterterrorism Division senior analyst Susan Fafrak sent an email saying that she had been informed by Lt. Bonifacio Esquivel that "the orange women" (seemingly a reference to the protestors in orange shirts) "will be taking off their clothes, urinating, and defecating in the Senate gallery today." Wisely, she added that she was "still searching for some sort of confirmation of this."