Editor’s Note: Changes have been made to this story to reflect statements made by the Texas Department of Public Safety clarifying its position.
Former Governor Rick Perry vowed to “fill in the gap left by the federal government” in 2009 when he formed special teams of Texas Rangers to secure the Texas-Mexico border. But in an effort to keep things safe north of the Rio Grande, is it possible the department overstepped?
According to a report obtained by the Austin-American Statesman, elite units of the Texas Rangers flew high-tech planes along the border in 2010, collecting intelligence on cartels operating in northern Mexico. The report, which the Texas Department of Public Safety says was prepared by an “outside vendor,” included a note saying, “Need to be careful here as we are admitting to spying on Mexico.”
An official from DPS contacted the Texas Standard saying they “unequivocally reject the reference to spying.”
They also said the aerial surveillance did not look into the interior of Mexico, but focused on the Rio Grande. But some experts are worried that Texas may have violated international law.
DPS officials told Schwartz, “In all instances, DPS conducts ground, aerial and marine patrols lawfully in U.S. territory only. We do not have jurisdiction nor are we authorized to patrol outside of U.S. territory. While our field of view may include the Rio Grande River; the river banks in Mexico; or the immediate inland area in Mexico — within visible range from the ground, air or river platform from which our officers are patrolling in Texas — operations are not conducted outside of U.S. territory.”
Since the report was obtained by the Statesman, many questions still remain unanswered, including specifics on how long the missions lasted.
Jeremy Schwartz, a reporter for the Statesman, spoke to the Texas Standard about the report.