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DHS gives Kansas legislators secret briefings on security

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 14, 2020

By John Hanna Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is giving Kansas legislators extraordinary private briefings about undisclosed security issues.

Kansas House members boarded National Guard buses Tuesday for a briefing at a former Air Force base south of Topeka involving DHS and arranged by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office. Democrats had a separate briefing first, followed by Republicans.

Reporters and staffers were not allowed on the buses before they left the Statehouse. Deputy Attorney General Jay Scott Emler, a former state Senate majority leader, said in a letter Tuesday to the Kansas House speaker that the briefings should be given in closed party caucuses, which are allowed under the state’s open meetings law.

Emler’s letter said only that the briefings concerned issues that legislators “may encounter in the course of their official duties.” Lawmakers knew little about the content ahead of time.

“We’re anticipating it’s something to do with cybersecurity, but we don’t know,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Kansas City-area Republican, told reporters ahead of the GOP briefing.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat and the Legislature’s longest-serving member, said he cannot recall a similar briefing in his 44 years as a lawmaker. Senators expect their DHS briefings by next week.

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