As the Wikileaks saga has reminded us, some governments like to keep secret that which is simply embarrassing.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice have likened anti-death penalty campaigners to terrorists and hostage-takers in a bid to keep State supplies of lethal injection drug secret.

A Freedom of Information request was recently filed in Texas seeking information on the supplies of sodium thiopental, part of a lethal three-drug cocktail used to execute condemned prisoners. Lawyers for those who would be killed with the drugs wanted to know the quantities of the drug on hand, its expiration date, and the names of suppliers.

Just how the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) plans to kill people should remain a secret, we are told.

“The release of any of the information would be akin to a local [law enforcement] office providing a … potential terrorist with how much ammunition was stored in the office,” complained TDCJ Assistant General Counsel Patricia Fleming. This would allow them to attack the police. “The requestor could use it to ambush the office thinking that, as long as he had or could accumulate more ammunition than was on hand in the satellite station, he could overcome [them].”

Ms Fleming opined that those opposed to the death penalty might start attacking proponents. “People could get seriously injured or killed,” she said.

This hyperbole raises the typical of the nonsense that the purveyors of secrecy tend to promote. Melinda Bozarth, Ms Fleming’s boss at TDCJ, is on record saying that “she is not aware of any new threats or issues with protestors.” Two other prison officials have said that few protestors show up for most executions and there have been no threats or violence, even arrests, in years.

The truth has nothing to do with violence, and all to do with commercial shame. Ms Fleming and her colleagues know that there will be public outrage at any pharmaceutical company that makes a few bloodstained dollars killing people.

Consider, for example, Hospira, the American company that previously manufactured sodium thiopental – with a British subsidiary that may recently have supplied the second execution drug, pancuronium bromide, to some of the killer states. “Hospira’s Vision,” the website tells us, is “advancing Wellness…through the right people and the right products.” Presumably, the Texan executioner is not the right person to use their product to better the health of the condemned.

There is no reason to keep this secret. If exposed, there is every chance that Hospira will show a greater commitment to “Integrity — Hospira builds respect and trust … by setting high standards and acting on its values.”

Reprieve is currently taking action to prevent exports of sodium thiopental from Europe to the US. Reprieve has been successful in securing a month-long ban on the export of the drug from the UK to the US for execution purposes.



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