Texas: Execution Drugs Should Be "State Secret"

October 22, 2010

Tired of taking a back seat to Arizona  in death penalty zeal, Texas today upped the ante in the high stakes game of keeping secrets from the public in whose name they are enthusiastically killing prisoners.  According to the Austin American-Statesman, a lawyer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has asked Texas’ Attorney General to declare information on lethal injection drugs to be a “state secret.” 

A letter requesting this designation says in part:

“We submit that the release of any of the information would be akin to a local DPS office providing a requestor (a potential terrorist) with how much ammunition was stored in the office.”

That’s right, death penalty opponents are “akin” to terrorists.  And if they were to get information on the drugs Texas uses in executions, this could somehow lead to all sorts of unspecified mayhem.  Or something.

The TDCJ’s letter was in response to efforts by the Austin paper to get information on Texas’ current supply of sodium thiopental (there is a national shortage).  I don’t need to tell you how dire the consequences would be if the paper succeeded in its nefarious efforts to provide the public with information on the functioning of a state agency.  TDCJ’s explanation says it all:

“If the (American-Statesman) published how much sodium thiopental we currently have and when it expires, this would operate to inflame an already volatile situation. People could get seriously injured or killed.”

It is true that ten years ago, during the execution of Gary Graham, there were protesters carrying AK-47s outside the Huntsville death house. But of course, that’s perfectly legal in Texas – and there were death penalty supporting Ku Klux Klan members there too.  No one was seriously injured or killed then, and nothing remotely like that has happened in over a decade. 

And how an increased knowledge ot sodium thiopental quantities would have inflamed that, or any other situation, is not exactly clear.

As is the case with all such “state secret” requests, the demands go beyond what could even dubiously be justified on security grounds.  TDCJ is also asking that information on the cost of execution drugs be concealed from the public (aka taxpayers). 

Meanwhile, in Arizona, a Federal court has ordered the state to reveal its source for sodium thiopental, or to at least explain why its source should remain a secret.