Univ. of Texas sues attorney general to challenge disclosure of security camera information

The University of Texas filed a lawsuit Jan. 15 against the Texas Attorney General, challenging its ruling that would require almost complete disclosure of documents relating to campus surveillance cameras.

In October, the University of Texas at Austin student newspaper, The Daily Texan, requested information pertaining to the location, operating hours, technical specifications and cost of the cameras, along with the contracts of companies that sold and operated them.

“Our investigative reporter was just following a tip and filed a request to see what came up,” said Daily Texan Managing Editor Ryan Pittman. “We don’t know the extent to which [the cameras are] used, how many there are and how much money is spent, and that’s why we filed the request.”

The university refused to disclose the information, explaining that some records did not exist and the release of other files would pose a national security risk. They argued that records that include the specifications and locations of the cameras could allow “criminal mischief” to go undetected.

The university forwarded the matter to the attorney general’s office, which then reviewed the request.

In December, acting Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that surveillance cameras were not part of the national security plan and that the university had to disclose the records in accordance with the Texas Open Records Act.

Shortly thereafter, the university filed a lawsuit against Abbott, asking the Travis County District Court to exempt from disclosure the information requested by The Daily Texan. This is the first time that UT-Austin has filed suit against the Attorney General regarding a public information request, said UT General Counsel Patricia Ohlendorf.