Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) has already made a startling number of gaffes since beginning his presidential campaign just four days ago. But one that has slipped under the radar concerns how his state’s borders are patrolled to prevent illegal immigration. Perry has been governor for 10 years, 7 months, and 27 days — the longest serving governor in Texas history. Yet he apparently doesn’t know how the state’s borders are patrolled.
In recent remarks about border security, Perry suggested that the U.S. should use the same predator drones for border patrol that we use in combat abroad. The governor somehow missed that this has already been happening — in his own state, no less — for two years. Nathan Pippenger at The New Republic catches the governor with egg on his face:
If you’re an average voter (and not, say, the governor of Texas), you could be forgiven for not knowing the details of our current southwest border surveillance efforts, which include 250 towers with daytime and nighttime cameras, 38 truck-mounted infrared cameras and radar systems, 130 planes and helicopters, and, yes, a fleet of unmanned aircraft systems. [...]
It is not, in any way, a new idea. In fact, The New York Times reported on the use of unmanned aircraft at the border almost two years ago. And it’s been over six months since DHS Secretary Napolitano gave a major speech announcing that Customs and Border Protection had Predators covering the entire southwest border, from the El Centro sector of California all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. She even gave the speech in El Paso! This shouldn’t be news to the governor of a massive border state.
Perry said of predator drones on Saturday, “They have all the equipment, they’re obviously unarmed, they’ve got the downward-looking radar, they’ve got the ability to do night work and through clouds. Why not be flying those missions and using [that] real-time information to help our law-enforcement?”
The governor cannot have been paying very close attention to the security of his own state if he missed that just last month, Texas got its second Predator drone to patrol the border. And a third Predator drone in Arizona is used to monitor Texas border areas over the Big Bend region and El Paso. Perry’s criticism of the president for not using drones at the border doesn’t make much sense given that the Obama administration sought the money for the two additional Southwest border drones in a bill approved by Congress last year.
Pippenger notes that “the only possible charitable interpretation” of Perry’s comments isn’t very likely (that by “drones” Perry “specifically meant autonomous unmanned aircraft, not remotely-controlled unmanned aircraft,” although the term is commonly used to refer to both). But Perry seemed convinced he was proposing a novel border security solution. Since this new idea is actually already national policy, it naturally raises the question — what other vital information about the day-to-day operation of his state has Perry missed?