FBI Agent Offers Weak Justification For JTTF Participation
In the Fri, Jan 21 edition of the Portland Tribune, FBI Special Agent Robert Jordan tries to sell us on the importance of our continued participation in the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force. His arguments weren't very compelling for me. I explain why in the article below.
For those interested in reading the entire Portland Tribune article, here is the link.
All quotes attributed to Special Agent Robert Jordan have been taken from that article.
At some point in the near future, the Portland City Council will vote as to whether or not Portland will continue its participation with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The vote, which is supposed to occur every year, has been delayed several times already, and is long overdue. The repeated delays have prompted speculation that the FBI is afraid the vote will not pass, and is trying to stall for time while it frantically tries to build support.
Whatever the reason for the delays, the FBI has good cause for concern. The FBI needs three votes (out of five possible) for the JTTF participation to be renewed. Commissioner Randy Leonard has demanded that the mayor have top secret level clearance to view case files, and that the FBI cover all associated costs. Sam Adams has demanded that Commissioners, and not just the Mayor, have top secret level access.
Erik Sten has, once again, expressed reservations about voting to support renewal, and Mayor Potter has been silent on the issue. Commissioner Saltzman, as usual, seems to buy into George Bush's rationale, and will be voting in favor of renewal. It's easy to see how the FBI might think a vote right now would be risky for them; just one person has come out in support.
JORDAN: "Special Agent Robert Jordan, who leads a force of more than 100 FBI agents in Oregon and also supervises the Portland task force, told the Portland Tribune that in his view, the council's opposition to the renewal 'just doesn't make sense.'
'If the single biggest threat to the region is terrorism, it doesn't make sense to have the largest police presence in Oregon be absent from the terrorism task force,' he said.
For example, he said, 'if we get a lead that two undocumented aliens just jumped ship in the Columbia and we go and talk to the owner and find out they're from a country that's of interest to us, we're going to start looking for those folks. And it's absolutely key to be able to plug into the Portland Police Bureau, to put out alerts and to plug into their information systems.'"
ME: That's it. Tell us that it doesn't make sense. Silly liberals. Must be the tinfoil hats causing the opposition.
As far as having undocumented aliens jump ship, if you have probable cause to suspect that they're terrorists, do you really think the Portland Police would refuse to help the FBI track them down? And if you DON'T have probable cause, then wouldn't the police officers on the JTTF be violating ORS 181.850, which prohibits local law enforcement from using resources to nab people whose only offense is a federal immigration violation? I would sincerely like to hear your reply to this, because the officers on the JTTF are supposed to comply with Oregon law, aren't they? And if you don't have probable cause, I sure don't want my officers spending time hunting down illegal immigrants--you can just call the INS for help.
Besides, how often do things like that happen? It couldn't be too often, or you wouldn't be cutting back to two officers. But let's not be distracted by that. You've said that it's key to work with the PPB, but I haven't once heard you say why the JTTF has to exist for that to happen.
JORDAN: "Jordan said that he is not willing to grant security clearance to all city commissioners who want civilian oversight of the task force.
He said the only council member who would be invited to apply for security clearance would be the mayor or whoever ends up serving as police commissioner. Jordan's office has given Mayor Tom Potter an application for 'secret' security clearance similar to what was granted to former Mayor Vera Katz.
But opponents point out that the mayor would not receive the same level of 'top secret' clearance as the Portland officers who actually work with the task force.
Jordan said Portland stands alone in its demands for civilian oversight among the 100 cities that have terrorism task forces or an equivalent force. 'When I meet with my counterparts from other cities, not one of them is having this issue with their city council,' he said."
ME: Yet another cheap character assassination. "Other cities don't complain, so the concerns of the Portland Commissioners must not be valid." Please stop. You're smarter than that, and I would like to see you debate the issues at the level of your intelligence.
Really, though, shouldn't Potter be allowed to know what his employees are doing with our tax dollars? Why should we trust you to behave if there are files that you're telling us we can't see? Personally, that makes me suspicious. The FBI has a long history of behaving illegally and against the interests of citizens whose only "crime" is peaceful political dissent. Why should we trust you, and shouldn't you trust Mayor Potter to keep from blurting out about secret files? If the JTTF is behaving and doing important work, then why would Potter want to mess things up by leaking classified information?
I understand that there are some things that should be kept secret, and I also understand that there are reasons the FBI and CIA can do things the police can't. And if my police aren't allowed to do these things, but are put in a position where they just might, oversight is of critical importance. Judge Damon J. Keith opined that "democracies die behind closed doors", and I agree.
JORDAN: "Council newcomer Sam Adams has said that he would vote for extending the city's role in the task force if he were offered security clearance to help oversee the task force's work.
Jordan said he didn't think that would be a good idea. 'If we gave clearance to everyone who wanted it, we'd end up with nine people supervising two detectives,' he said."
ME: Don't be silly. Having all of our commissioners given top secret clearance is not at all the same as having them all supervise our detectives. If I look at your files, there's nothing that says I have to then go and supervise your actions. If I find problems, I might point them out to your boss, who then might choose to supervise you. I want a transparent government, and while I'm prepared to support the JTTF if you FIRST demonstrate a clear need for the JTTF (including a comprehensive explanation as to why the FBI and police can't work together effectively without the JTTF) and THEN provide full funding and "top secret" clearance to Mayor Potter, I also think there could be value added in having several of the commissioners with access. I doubt all of them would frequently use the privilege, but I also like the idea of having several sets of eyes look over things. For instance, Commissioner Saltzman would think some actions of the officers were perfectly acceptable, while Sam Adams might cry foul. One set of eyes with clearance does not make me as comfortable as five sets.
Oh yeah, and we activists haven't forgotten how the FBI lied a few years ago by claiming that the mayor couldn't have access, and how certain of our Federal representatives could. Both claims turned out to be untrue and I have questions as to why the FBI would lie like that, and what incentive they would have to lie if they didn't have anything to hide.
JORDAN: "Jordan, a former New Jersey cop and Philadelphia prosecutor, has run Portland's FBI office for a year and a half. He said the local threat of terrorism is real.
'There are people in Oregon right now who have trained in jihadist camps overseas,' he said. 'And in some of those camps they preached the murdering of Americans, and they took vows to murder Americans.'"
ME: Let me get this straight. You know for a fact that these people in Oregon took vows to murder Americans? Or do you mean a "they" that might not be in Oregon. If you know that for a fact that "they" took these evil vows, then you must know who "they" are, and so you must already be monitoring "them". So why was it, again, that you needed the help of PPB detectives? Stop with the fear tactics. Terrorists exist. I don't want to be killed by them. But let's not make it sound like they're more of a threat than smoking, driving drunk, gang violence, or physical inactivity. All of those things are far more likely to kill us than your precious little boogeymen, and you don't see us clamoring to give up the right to drink, smoke, and watch TV, do you? Don't expect me to get on board with you just because you overstate the threat and try to strike fear into my heart. Honestly, I'm more afraid of the Bush Administration than I am of terrorists.
JORDAN: "Jordan apologized to Mayfield, but he emphasized that his agents had nothing to do with the misidentified fingerprint that implicated the attorney.
'I'm very proud of how we conducted ourselves with the Mayfield case,' he said. 'We built a castle and the foundation turned out to be sand. But it was not our fault, not FBI Portland's fault.'"
ME: If you're very proud of how you conducted yourselves in the Mayfield case, then I'm very disgusted with you. Things like, "attends a mosque" and "advertises in a Muslim yellow pages" just don't strike me as being evidence. In fact, not one piece of evidence that you used to detain Mayfield struck me as anything more than unfounded suspicion. Please don't make excuses for your behavior. It's not acceptable behavior and I want to see that acknowledged. I know, it'll be a cold day in Hell.
You also mentioned the Portland Seven. Why was it that you needed the JTTF to bust them?
JORDAN: "Jordan said the FBI has the authority to infiltrate mosques when necessary.
'We follow leads,' he said. 'If we have a credible reason to think that somebody is involved with criminal or terrorist activity, we're going to do what it takes within the Constitution to follow up. That's what the public expects from us.'"
ME: Look, I'm glad you investigated Mayfield. If forensics experts came to me and said "this fingerprint is a 100% match" then I'd want to investigate, too. But you didn't act within the Constitution. None of your evidence was solid, and you know that. You had, essentially, zero dirt on Mayfield and that's why you took him in as a witness instead of a suspect. And sneaking around in his apartment without first presenting him with a warrant was despicable. It may be legal under the USA PATRIOT Act, but around here, many parts of the USA PATRIOT Act are spat upon as an encroachment upon our rights.
Mr. Jordan, I hope that you are able to shed light on some of this. Regardless of what we view as the cause of 9/11 (some of us are of the opinion that it was brought about by American imperialism and think that addressing the imperialism would make us safer than taking away our rights), most of us don't want to be killed by terrorists. I, for one, would support the JTTF if you were first able to justify its existence, and then paid for it in full and gave the mayor proper oversight.
Until that happens, I am greatly appreciative of the (at least two) members of the Portland City Council that have the courage to stand up for our rights.
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