Texas National Guard disbanded intelligence wing after members used WhatsApp to spy on migrants

Four members of the unit working on Gov. Greg Abbott’s border mission have been punished after whistleblowers reported the surveillance operation violated long-standing rules against state-run spy operations.

By Davis Winkie, Military Times & James Barragán, Texas TribuneAugust 30, 2023 10:55 am, ,

From the Texas Tribune:

• Lt. Col. David “Eric” Tyler led the border intelligence section from December 2021 to fall 2022.

• Maj. Dezi J. Rios, the intelligence wing’s deputy director, allegedly oversaw the WhatsApp collection operation.

• Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric E. Hack led the El Paso team that allegedly shared classified FBI intelligence.

• Then-1st Lt. Emmanuel L. Pierre, a military intelligence officer from a subordinate unit, allegedly began the WhatsApp intelligence operation about a month before Rios arrived at the border.

‘Uniquely vulnerable to abuse’

Sophie Park / The Texas Tribune

Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers are apprehended by Customs and Border Protection after crossing the border in Roma on Aug. 3, 2021.

Burners on the border

Jordan Vonderhaar for the Texas Tribune

Haitian migrants gather along the banks of the Rio Grande as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter flies overhead in Del Rio on Thursday, September 16, 2021.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune

Texas National Guard soldiers take positions along the Rio Grande to help patrol the border between the U.S. and Mexico in El Paso on December 20, 2022.

Alarm bells

Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

A group of migrants from Venezuela walk between the southern border wall and the Rio Grande towards a temporary border patrol processing facility in El Paso on October 6, 2022.

Secrets spilled


Verónica G. Cárdenas for ProPublica/The Texas Tribune

Border Patrol agents patrol the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass on Nov. 8, 2021.