OPPOSE THE PJTTF- Nov. 3
On Wednesday, November 3, at either 9:40 a.m. (according to the ACLU) or at 2pm (according to Commissioner Eric Sten), the Portland City Council (1221 SW 4th Ave Portland, OR 97204) will once again vote on whether or not to renew its participation in the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force. It's time for us to stand up and demand an end to this anti-democratic organization!
Why Say "No" to the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force?!
What is the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force?
Currently, the 4-year-old Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force is composed of five Portland police officers, two sergeants, one lieutenant, a Beaverton police officer, an Oregon State Police officer and an undisclosed (allegedly for security reasons) number of local FBI agents.
The Portland city council first formalized the FBI-PPB Joint Terrorism Task Force partnership in 2000, on the heels of the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle, WA. In an e-mail to concerned activists, Mayor Katz claimed the PJTTF had its start in the 1997 collaboration between the PPB and FBI "investigating and preventing criminal threats to the Nike World Master Games", in this, the city where the multinational corporation is headquartered. At a September 2000 city council meeting, the PJTTF agreement, which broadly targeted "right" and "left wing" activists for investigation, was slated for routine renewal as an emergency measure. Commissioner Charlie Hales convinced the council to change the original language to conform to Oregon State Law before being approved. ORS 181.575 states that
"No law enforcement agency...may collect
or maintain information about the political,
religious, or social views, associations or
activities of any individual, group, association,
[or] organization . . . unless such information
directly relates to an investigation of criminal
activities, and there are reasonable grounds to
suspect the subject of the information is or may
be involved in criminal conduct."
The wording of the PJTTF agreement now demands a "reasonable suspicion of criminal actions". The FBI and other PJTTF supporters have argued that these guidelines are too restrictive. However, the FBI has had the ability to open preliminary investigations based on allegations of potential criminal intentions made by anyone, even paid informants. On the other hand, these guidelines set for the PJTTF is now a moot point, since US Attorney General John Ashcroft released new guidelines for FBI investigation in 2002, which completely unleash the FBI from the need for "reasonable suspicion".
This year's PJTTF memorandum has a few structural changes, the most significant of which is that Portland now only has two full-time officers assigned to the PJTTF (rather than 1 Lieutenant, 1 Sergeant, 5 officers, and one non-sworn staff as in the past). The Mayor and the Police Chief are now deputized and Mayor Katz has received "Secret" level security clearance. However, her oversight will be limited to meetings and briefings. In a September 29, 2004 letter to the ACLU, she stated that she will not disclose any more details as to the type of files and investigations to which she will have access.
Infringements on Civil Liberties
On May 30, 2002, US Attorney General John Ashcroft released new Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Terrorism Enterprise Investigations (RICO). In doing so, he swept away protections that have been in place since the 1970s (which were a result of all the uncovering of FBI Counter-Intelligence, or COINTELPRO, abuses).
The new Guidelines allow the government to spy on US citizens and groups even when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing. Once launched, these investigations can continue longer, with more intrusive investigative techniques and with less oversight, even when investigations produce no evidence of criminal activity.
These investigative techniques can include having undercover agents or informants infiltrate organizations and attend meetings, physical or photographic surveillance, examination of records, trolling the Internet, and commercial data mining services.
Under state law, Portland police officers should have no connection to these policies, powers, and investigative techniques, but as members of the JTTF, they do because the deputized police officers are under the direction of the FBI officers. The Portland Police, many other municipal police departments, and the FBI have proven their penchant for infringing on civil liberties and trodding on state law in the past. Nationally, thousands of "red squad" style police files on progressive activists have come to the public eye in recent years, including several files on local Portland activists who are labeled "non-criminal". In the early '90s, it was revealed that the Portland Police Bureau had maintained investigative files on liberal groups such as the Oregon ACLU and shared them with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, which regards left wing and anti-apartheid groups as enemies of Israel.
With the power that has been given to the Regional Terrorist Task Forces, and the scrapping of many checks and balances on that power, what was left of peoples' rights and access to recourse has been tossed out the window. Labor organizer Bob Marshall was among the first to analyze the chilling effect that the PJTTF would have on labor organizing efforts. Citing repeated incidents of police surveillance of Powell's Books workers during their organizing drive in 2000, Marshall remarked before the 2001 renewal hearing that unions viewed the PJTTF as "another gauntlet thrown by corporate America." At the 2002 hearing, Leal Sundet, of ILWU Local 8, testified that Bush had already threatened to label and prosecute western longshore workers as "economic terrorists" if they called a strike. The PJTTF spied on members of Dignity Village. According to Jack Tafari, a member of Dignity Village, villagers are concerned that these police files will haunt them in the future. The PJTTF has been involved in shutting down a union rally, infiltrating and monitoring local activist groups, and much more that is not public information.
Not Accountable to the People of Portland, or Our Local Elected Representatives
Citizens of Portland have no say about the activities of the PJTTF, except in urging our Commission to vote against the arrangement, and to seek legal recourse in especially dire cases of abuse. The Portland City Attorney's office and the Independent Police Review Division review the Criminal Intelligence Unit's files created by Portland police officers but do not review the JTTF files even though these files are created by the very same police officers. These JTTF files are FBI files, not subject to review and purging required under Oregon law, so files are not destroyed as city and state laws require- after a given amount of time. Federal agencies now also have Ashcroft's permission to resist Freedom Of Information Act requests, so our obtianing information from the FBI and the PJTTF is up to FBI discretion.
For Profit, not For People
In 2002, Police Chief Kroeker faced a packed room of angry citizens who were still stinging from the police paramilitary response to protesters during Bush's A22 visit. Kroeker's presentation before the council chambers provided strong evidence of the central role that corporate interests play in shaping the PJTTF agenda. Under the heading "community supporters," almost all of which were forest products corporations, he quoted an Oregon industry spokesperson who called the PJTTF "a perfect example of the corporate approach to information sharing that needs to occur across agency jurisdictions to bring all terrorist activities to justice." Listing "terror crimes in our region," Kroeker highlighted nine environmentally related property crimes going back to 1996 and encompassing both Washington and Oregon. Numbering among the "terror crimes," none of which involved human injuries, were the destruction of "experimental grass seeds at Pure-Seed Testing facility," an arson fire that destroyed a lumber company office, and a nationally publicized arson fire that destroyed 37 SUVs at a Eugene dealership. Tim Crocker, of the Portland Business Alliance, testified in favor of the PJTTF claiming that Oregon faces a higher threat of "ecoterrorism" than any other state.
The conflation of property destruction and vandalism with national terrorist threat is significant in this region where environmental activists have held successful campaigns to preserve the last remaining temperate old growth, in the face of a very well-heeled and politically connected industry. The historical partnership between the FBI and timber industry was made public on June 11 2002, when the FBI was found guilty of framing environmentalist Judi Bari for the explosion of a bomb planted in her own car. The FBI had claimed she intended to use the bomb, which maimed her, in an act of sabotage.
During the PJTTF hearing in 2002, an agent stated that the task force would investigate violations of the Hobbs Act, which forbids interference with interstate commerce through the use or threat of force, violence, or fear. This is as much a catchall crime as it appears. A Philadelphia business owner filed a RICO lawsuit against protesters who demonstrated peacefully against animal cruelty outside of his store, which showcases fur coats.
In 2002, Kroeker also touted the recent high-profile arrest of Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, the religious leader of Portland's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of Portland. If you remember this case, you will recall that Kariye was considered guilty by the corporate media. But on the Monday following the 2002 renewal of the PJTTF agreement and budget, Assistant US Attorney Kent Robinson announced that the FBI's tests of Kariye's bags had come back negative for the presence of TNT. In his 2002 testimony before the City Council, Kayse Jama, a member of the Islamic Center of Portland, spoke to the heightened fears of members of the Muslim community in the face of Kariye's arrest. Jama voiced his concerns with being targeted by the PJTTF and possible reprisal for his testimony before the City Council: "I am a Muslim. I am also a Black man. I am also an immigrant." Jama, who fled political violence in his native Somalia, noted that people in his community now feared calling the police over any issue, believing that they could be arbitrarily detained, prosecuted and/or deported without due process.
Before retiring as FBI director, Louis Freeh defined anarchists, whom he blamed for damage during the Seattle WTO meetings, as terrorists. Defining a group of people united on ideological grounds to be terrorists brings a whole new meaning to the term "thought crime".
This Year's Dragnet
An May 6th, 2004, The U.S. FBI wrongly arrested Brandon Mayfield, 37, of Beaverton. A partial fingerprint sent from Madrid apparently connected him to the bombings of March 11th in Spain. When the Spanish government identified the fingerprint as that of an Algerian, and repeatedly suggested that the Department of Justice release Mr. Mayfield, he was. He'd been held for two weeks.
The Justice Department has come under criticism for having built its case against Mr. Mayfield in part by noting his Islamic affiliations. "I am an American Muslim," Mr. Mayfield declared on release. "I have been singled out and discriminated against, I feel, as a Muslim." His father agreed: "They picked him out because they wanted someone who fit this profile. This was the closest they had, and he was a Muslim."
"If you are Muslim you are suspect," commented Samer Horani of the Islamic Center of Portland. Dave Fidanque of the American Civil Liberties Union concurred: "as far as the Justice Department is concerned, if you're Muslim and attend particular mosques that are suspect, you're presumed guilty until you're proved innocent." The New York Times disapprovingly notes that the decision to detain Mr. Mayfield "was clearly influenced by his Muslim ties."
Some links of interest:
If you wish to write to the Mayor and City Council in advance of the November 3 hearing to let them know how you feel about deputizing Portland officers for the taskforce, their contacts are listed below.
Mayor Vera Katz
1221 SW 4th Room 340
Portland, Oregon 97204
Commissioner Jim Francesconi
1221 SW 4th Avenue, rm. 220
Portland, OR 97204
Commissioner Randy Leonard
1221 SW 4th Room 240
Portland, Oregon 97204
Commissioner Erik Sten
1221 SW 4th Room 240
Portland, Oregon 97204
Commissioner Dan Saltzman
1221 SW 4th Ave, Room 230
Portland, OR 97204
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