Join Terrorism Task Force up for renewal: Talking Points from COPWATCH
reminder: the pjttf renewal comes before council on thursday, sept 19 at 2 pm...
Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force Talking Points August, 2002
The Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force (PJTTF), created in 1997, involves
eight full-time Portland Police personnel and numerous FBI and other law
enforcement agents. The City's participation is up for its annual renewal
on Thursday, September 19 at 2 PM.
Here are some suggested talking points as you discuss the PJTTF:
Portland Police officers deputized as Federal agents may not be directly
under the control of our City Council. Although they cannot investigate in
a manner that violates Oregon law (which prohibits collection of
information on people for their social, political or religious views),
their investigative reports for the Task Force cannot be locally reviewed
including review by the Mayor (only the FBI and the Portland Police
Lieutenant in the PJTTF).
Records collected by the Portland Police Bureau must be audited and/or
purged after two years; FBI records can be permanent (the FBI says most
are kept 10 to 20 years) and shared with other agencies.
The City Council and the public have no accounting for what the PJTTF has
been doing since its inception. Although the Task Force is required to
brief the Chief of Police on a semi-annual basis, the Mayor has not shared
any such report publicly.
Cooperation between different law enforcement agencies can exist without
formal arrangement. San Francisco's City Council rejected including their
police in that city's Joint Terrorism Task Force, when it was created in
1997. As recently as late 2001, the San Francisco police simply attended
JTTF meetings on an informal basis but were not deputized as FBI agents.*
The FBI mentioned the Hobbs Act (dealing with violence or threats of
violence which interfere with interstate commerce) as one focus of the
PJTTF, causing concern that peaceful labor organizers or
anti-globalization activists may be branded "terrorists." The Hobbs Act
has been applied against the people arrested for allegedly being involved
in the June 2001 arson of a logging truck and raises concerns that it will
be used to increase penalties for acts of civil disobedience.
The Criminal Intelligence Unit, which was absorbed into the PJTTF, has
spied on social justice groups in Portland without cause.
The FBI's history of spying on activists stretches back to 1908 and
includes spying on suspected Anarchists, Communists, anti-war activists,
feminists, and even Martin Luther King, Jr.
The FBI, which has a long history of misconduct to overcome, should accept
independent civilian review of its files and current activities - if they
refuse, Portland should not link its police officers to the FBI. The FBI
still has not answered to charges that they overlooked information that
could have prevented 9/11. FBI agents were recently found liable for
violating the civil liberties of Judi Bari, an environmentalist they
claimed had put a bomb in her own car that exploded.
Prior to Sept 11th, both New York (since 1980) and Washington DC had Joint
Terrorism Task Forces. They did not prevent 9/11 attacks from happening.
The Governor announced on Sept. 11. 2001 after the NYC and DC bombings
that there is no credible terrorist threat in Oregon.
Eight Portland officers are being paid primarily as PJTTF since the bulk
of their work is done on PJTTF cases, while precincts' staff positions are
being cut and street officers are hard to come by. (Also, the fact that
the federal government pays for the Portland Police officers' overtime may
encourage unnecessary work on investigations to access that money.) The
total annual budget of the PJTTF for Portland as of September 2001 was
Last year, Mayor Katz announced that only twelve investigations had been
opened between January 2000 and August 2001. Only two PJTTF "terrorism"
investigations have been reported on since the-- a Lebanese-born man who
has been convicted on weapons charges, but nothing regarding terrorism,
and four forest activists who have a history of doing non-violent civil
disobedience to call attention to logging abuse that harms the
environment, have been indicted for an arson which is being labelled
"terrorism" without clear reason.
Attorney General Ashcroft has greatly expanded the powers of the FBI,
making it possible that Portland officers will be supporting agents who
infringe on civil rights. Ashcroft also created regional Anti-Terrorism
Task Forces in each of 93 Federal Attorneys' districts (as of June 2002).
These ATTFs will likely lead to more confusion of jurisdiction and whose
rules are being followed, as well as duplication of work.
In 2001, a Carpenters Union organizer was called by a Beaverton Police
officer, who was a member of the PJTTF. The officer asked him about an
upcoming organizing action. When organizers arrived at the site, all the
workers has been sent home.
The original Memorandum of Understanding listed the names of all the
officers involved in the PJTTF. As such, the community could verify that
the officer who called the Carpenters' union was legitimately from the
PJTTF. These names been removed in the new memorandum. The names of agents
and officers involved in the Task Force should be public information.
At the hearing on the PJTTF in 2001, Chief Kroeker cited cases as
justifying the need for the task force didn't constitute a terrorist
threat to Portland. All of the acts thwarted in other cities, and all of
the criminal acts in Oregon mentioned are covered by criminal statutes
such as arson or vandalism. (As if to prove that the definition of
"terrorism" is being too broadly expanded, the new anti-terrorism laws
signed by George Bush increase penalties for vandalism against "animal
Although the PJTTF has apparently worked to help protect abortion clinics,
the federal Free Access to Clinic Entrances law already makes attacks and
threats criminal; police-FBI cooperation on this law can be done without a
full-time task force.
A number of people who work in abortion services, including one who
testified in favor of the PJTTF last year, have expressed concerns about
civil liberties infringements under the current structure; some have
stated that an informal FBI-police cooperation could be just as effective
at protecting clinics.
Only independent civilian oversight of the PJTTF would be acceptable for
safeguarding - if that is refused, Portland police officers should not
participate in the task force (Judicial oversight, which has its pros and
cons, could be part of that review system.)
Local review of PJTTF files will not occur. Although Independent Police
Review Division (IPR) Director Richard Rosenthal and Deputy City Attorney
Woboril review the files regarding local activity generated by the police
members of the PJTTF, federal cases are not in their jurisdiction.
The process for renewing the PJTTF agreement has excluded parties (other
than law enforcement and businesspeople) from having a voice in decision
making. Discussions on important matters should occur before agreements
are drawn up.
Ann Arbor, MI, Cambridge, Northampton, Amherst and Leverett (township),
MA, the town of Carrboro, NC, Berkeley, CA and Boulder, CO have adopted
resolutions condemning the USA PATRIOT Act, in particular the enhanced
powers the act provides law enforcement in its zeal to investigate
People should contact the Council as soon as possible, before September
19th, to let them know how they feel about the PJTTF.
Portland, Oregon City Council: 1221 SW 4th Ave Portland, OR 97204
Mayor Vera Katz
Rm 340 Ph 503-823-4120
Commissioner Jim Francesconi
Rm 220 Ph 503-823-3008
Commissioner Dan Saltzman
Rm 230 Ph 503-823-4151
Commissioner Erik Sten
Rm 240 Ph 503-823-3589
Sources for this information include:
Letter to City Council from Elise Marshall, October 2001.
Letter to the ACLU from Deputy City Attorney David Woboril, July 11, 2002.
Memorandum of understanding creating the PJTTF (2000 and 2001).
People's Police Report #23-27 (April 2001-August 2002, newsletter of
compiled by Diane Lane and Dan Handelman, Portland Copwatch 503-236-3065
(created 8/23/02, * modified 8/29/02)
add a comment on this article