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The Enemy Within

Today, Mayor Potter publically revealed (and condemned) an effort by the FBI to place an informant within the walls of City Hall. A lesser man might have been tempted to let the matter drop lest, in hearing the news, his constituents might suspect that he "had something to hide," a phrase often heard these days. But Mayor Potter is not a man easily cowed into the corner. Thankfully, he's moved to bring Big Brother out of the closet. In an open letter to the people, he spoke out not only against this personal intrustion, but against the whole web of warrantless, lawless government spying so nakedly revealed to us recently.
I've had FBI agents knocking on the doors of friends of mine, and even dragging some of them away in the night. I've had them haunting my own nightmares. Probably, since I am a media activist, I've even had them listening to my telephone conversations and reading my mail. So I am well aware that we are not in Kansas anymore, as the saying goes. Still, somehow it shocks me to learn that they have been so blatantly skulking around in, of all places, City Hall.

What could they be doing there? Seeking what kind of dirt? Is it retribution? Is it because Mayor Potter stood with the people of this city on the issue of the PJTTF, symbolically (if not effectively) kicking their asses out of town? Maybe it's that the city council refused to bow to Portland's business community on the issue of Schumacher furs. Animal rights activists are, after all, topping the FBI's questionable list of "terrorists" these days. Perhaps agents felt that the council was "giving aid and comfort" to those whom they have (irrationally) deemed terrorists.

Could it be that the council has been flexing its newfound backbone (yes, even Mr. Sten!) with regard to public power, civil rights, and the environment? It is difficult even to speculate why the FBI would try to spy on our democratically elected officials. It is more difficult still to imagine a more concrete piece of evidence that the corporate police state is completely and irredeemably out of control.

I may have had my disagreements with a few of the Mayor's decisions (most notably, his treatment of Portland citizens who are homeless). But for the most part, I have found him to be a reasonable man of good judgement and character. So it will be very difficult indeed for the FBI to explain away what they were doing prowling around on his doorstep. Perhaps, it will be even more difficult than their strained efforts to explain why they were reading elementary school homework by the children of Brandon Mayfield. And certainly, it will be more difficult than explaining why their dubious dragnets have been targeting mainly people who care about the environment or the rights of animals, while corporate exploiters steal and maim and kill without consequence.

Strangely, I can think of no higher recommendation for the Mayor than finding him here with the rest of us, under the terrifying scrutiny of the rogue police state. I imagine he has a whole new perspective on what it means for the FBI to be harassing and intimidating the people of this city, as they have been doing so oppressively.

Mayor Potter, if you're reading this, watch your back. Because you can bet there are people around you now who were also approached, and who did not come forward to tell you about it.

We'll have your back in this, Tom. Will you have ours?

The Letter 24.May.2006 16:51

written by Tom

An Open Letter to the Portland Community:

On Thursday, May 11, 2006, a Special Agent of the Portland Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation stopped a City employee and showed her a badge and ID. He asked if she knew any City Council members. He asked if she would be willing to pass information to him relating to people who work for the City of Portland . He said that while he had duties in other areas, the agency was always interested in information relating to white collar crime and other things.

Mayor Potter with Commissioners Leonard, Adams and Saltzman (left to right)One important and legitimate role of the FBI is to investigate public corruption within government entities. For example, recently the FBI arrested a member of Congress for public corruption. But federal officials have told me they know of no public corruption in our city. Federal officials say they are conducting no investigation of the City of Portland.

The only conclusion I can draw is that the agent in question was trying to place an informant inside the offices of Portland 's elected officials and employees, in order to inform on City Council and others.

The actions of the FBI - even if they are the actions of one agent acting on his own - come at an uneasy time for many Americans. In the past few weeks, we have learned that our phone records are not private, and conversations are monitored without warrants. Journalists exposing these actions have been threatened with prosecution.

Even if this incident is nothing more than the work of one overzealous agent, it represents an unacceptable mindset within the agency. When there is no information to indicate ANY public corruption on the part of City Council members or employees, the FBI has no legitimate role in surreptitiously monitoring elected officials and city employees.
As a city, we will continue to cooperate with the FBI on investigating criminal activities and terrorism, to ensure our community is as safe as possible.

But in the absence of any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, I believe the FBI's recent actions smack of "Big Brother." Spying on local government without justification or cause is not acceptable to me. I hope it is not acceptable to you, either.

Thank you,

Tom Potter
Mayor

FBI responds 24.May.2006 16:58

FBI press release

[Please note, they do not deny the allegation. Note also, that they do not feel constrainted by laws which limit their intrusions into our lives to cases when wrongdoing is suspected or established. Instead, they are trying to justify an unjustifiable fishing expedition.]

"The FBI has and will continue to have an open dialogue with Mayor Potter and other city officials concerning a variety of public safety issues that are important to the people of this city. Because of this open relationship, the mayor and the FBI have discussed, on several occasions, the issues raised in his letter. Although we strongly disagree on the significance of the incident described, we do welcome the opportunity to keep lines of communication open."

"The FBI is a part of the communities in which it works. To be effective, it relies on the assistance of those who also live and work in those communities. It is entirely proper for an FBI agent to ask willing citizens to provide information when those citizens feel it is appropriate to do so regarding potential criminal conduct - whether that information involves a bank robbery, kidnapping, public corruption or other crime."

"The vast majority of public officials - both elected and appointed - are honest in their work and committed to serving their fellow citizens. Saying that, we've seen cases around the country of those who abuse the public trust. The citizens served by the FBI expect - and should expect - the FBI to take reasonable, lawful steps to counter criminal behavior where and when it happens."

"In the last two years, FBI investigations have led to a 40% increase in the number of indictments of government employees involved in corruption. Many of our investigations start with a tip from someone who encounters corruption in the course of their work. The FBI cannot investigate corruption (or any crime) until it determines that that crime exists, and simply providing citizens with an avenue to provide that information is good police work."

"The FBI's Portland Division has and will continue to abide by the Constitution as well as all federal laws, rules and regulations concerning the conduct of its investigations."

"The FBI will continue to work with the City of Portland, its elected officials and its employees to ensure the safety of the people we jointly serve."

Response to the response 24.May.2006 21:11

Marleen

"The FBI's Portland Division has and will continue to abide by the Constitution..."

Has and will?
Exactly how can we confirm this 100%, or are we to be so collectively
stupid as to take the word of agents of a corrupt government?

Nice little news release Mr. Fed.

Perhaps you should have just apologized to the people of the City of Portland.

Naw. Your organization doesn't make mistakes.

Dear Mayor Potter 25.May.2006 00:40

A loyal fan

If you keep this up, we might have to make you President of Cascadia when we finally shake off the shackles of the USA! Can't happen too soon I say! Why not open a dialogue on whether or not Portland should become Capitol of the new, free nation?

and then 25.May.2006 06:09

"they"

wonder why some of us are talking of revolution and secession.

girls and boys and others it is far overdue that we take our fate out of a fascistic government and mentality!

Dear Mr Potter,

I implore you to start thinking of secession and inturn, if you come to the same conclusion that many are starting to, then start educating our people in all aspects and levels within our bioregion of their right to do so.

Yes Potter join Cascadian Resistance 25.May.2006 06:24

ecotopian yeti

Gotta ask the question how many others are under watch who are clueless.

Hi-larious! 25.May.2006 08:14

Humorous

Loved the line in Potter's letter:

> In the past few weeks, we have learned that our phone records are not private

Great stuff - I'm sure the Portland Police Bureau ***never*** requests phone records from Qwest without a warrant.

Is Mayor Tom going to apologize for the PPB going over people's phone records when he was police chief? Or has he forgotten about that?

One more thought about this 25.May.2006 09:29

Cat

It's strange, but this episode is, in a way, somehow comforting to me. I have almost literally been watching the hounds at the door for some time now. I have watched in horror as they raided the homes of people around me, mostly non-violent political activists, and I have found many occasions to raise the alarm about the growing police state. I have suspected them to be listening in on my own conversations, and despite my innocence, I have been wondering when it would be my time to be hauled away to the camps. I am not alone in this. Every day, there are new revelations about the end of our privacy, the end of our civil and human rights, the end of our innocence. Every day, we learn of more people who have disappeared from the streets of our city, or some other city in the world, dragged off to some prison or detention facility, for nothing more than a misplaced word, a suspicion, or a deviant attitude toward those who would rule us all. Once, we would have been paranoid to be as careful about what we say as we are these days. Now, we are only realists. I've been feeling like I'm in some crackling, old, black and white flashback of the terrifying world that once existed behind the iron curtain, or so they told me in grade school. It's all seemed so surreal, so much like a dream.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have thought it was only us. Somehow, I now realize, I had kept this all at an unsettling distance. I had been living it, but not fully grasping it. I had seen and understood it to be true, but it wasn't something you could just talk about to anyone. I mean, you couldn't go to work and discuss it, because no one there could see it. It was like the monster under your bed. You knew it was there, but you couldn't explain it to anyone. If you tried, they just stared blankly and muttered meaningless and empty reassurances. Something about how if you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide. Just go back to sleep.

As radicals, we banded together around our own as the dragnets rolled across our community. But in our day jobs, we were forced to pretend that nothing was happening. No one there could see it. No one there was going to rise to help us, no one there would reach out a hand to pull us back from the jaws of the hounds, should they come gnashing for us. If and when they came for us, we knew we could count on no one but each other. Everyone else had been co-opted by the police state, like some bad zombie movie. It's strange, but I now realize that even I had adopted an unconscious belief that maybe it was all just an illusion. Maybe they really weren't out to get us, maybe I was just being paranoid, and maybe we were all still back in Kansas after all.

But, as it turns out, it wasn't just us. The monster is under everyone's bed, even those who might have previously believed that they could protect themselves simply by "doing nothing wrong," by having "nothing to hide." Somehow, knowing that even our city officials are in this with us makes me feel less alone. And somehow, the fact that Mayor Potter sees the monster makes a difference in everyone's perspective. When I came to work this morning, everyone was talking about it. "Did you see the jaws?" "Did you hear it growling?" "There's a monster under our beds."

This isn't our father's country any more... 25.May.2006 10:39

Pravda or Consequences

The breadth and depth of tyranny from the top down is so appalling that one can't help talking about secession, revolution, et al.

GW and people who think like him live for the moment while the rest of us are trying to live for the long term and maybe give humans time and resources to understand what life is really about.

I think this is payback for Potter putting FBI supporter Foxworth on administrative leave.

An eye opener 25.May.2006 11:31

for sure

This just goes to show that we have been right to be so careful about protecting our identities and our associations. But it also points out how much more careful we need to be. Because I have been a bit lax, never imagining that they were out prowling by the light of day like this. I think a mass name exchange is probably in order, changing or exchanging our activist names. Those who drive should not park within miles of other activists' homes, meetings, or political events. We've always been cautious about telephone or email conversations, let us be even more so now.

Those who believe this is about just not doing anything wrong, not having anything to hide, are deluding themselves and putting the rest of us in danger. I no longer have any patience for the clueless liberals in my circle who insist on sharing my legal name with others, even though I have repeatedly requested that they use only my activist name. I wish I had not met those people before changing my name. Now, I will change it again.

Remember, if they are after city hall, they are most definitely after any of us associated with political activism, environmental activism, media activism, animal rights activism, or any other important and effective social movement. If they're snooping around for an informant within city hall, they're already within all those "terrorist" groups they have named. Peta, indymedia, food not bombs, they could all be infiltrated. I do not say this to sow fear and distrust among us, only to air what we have all been thinking. So be wary of strangers, be careful what you say, and watch your back. They will park across streets and record license plates, they will hide behind disguises and record conversations. They do not care about the constitution, or even human decency. We do not need to be afraid, but we need to be awake. It's time to take the world back.

Courageous woman citizen 25.May.2006 12:14

Fredric L. Rice frice@skeptictank.org

The fascist regime's response was that they want citizens to be aware of crimes taking place around them and what's ironic is that the woman who exposed this attempt to "turn" an honest citizen into a fascist informant is overwhelmingly courageous for doing so. Ironically when she informed the proper authorities about the attempt, she was doing exactly what the fascist regime had asked her to do.

The fascist regime proclaims that they did nothing wrong and fell within the law. This is the same fascist regime that is committing massive crimes against humanity in Iraq and massive felonious treason against America by illegally seizing every American's private telephone calling records -- and then proclaiming they did nothing wrong and fall within the law.

Bet you the Mayor's health is questionable now, now that he's gone public with the fascist regime's attempts to install Nazi Germany or a KGB agent in America's local government offices. And the woman who blew this whistle? I hope someone has her back as well.

My opinions only and only my opinions.


NW Center responds to FBI recruiting of informants in City Hall 25.May.2006 12:25

NW Constitutional Rights Center info@nwcrc.org

PRESS RELEASE



For immediate release: May 24, 2006

Contact: Alejandro Queral, NW Constitutional Rights Center
503-295-6400


Recruitment of Informants in City Hall May Violate Attorney General's Guidelines
Statement of Executive Director Alejandro Queral


Portland, OR - Alejandro Queral, Executive Director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center released the following statement in response to the FBI's attempt to place citizen informants within City Hall, and in support of Mayor Tom Potter's "Open Letter to the Community."

"The NW Center applauds Mayor Potter's decisive public statement disapproving of the local FBI's actions. We agree with the Mayor that 'spying on local government without justification or cause is not acceptable' and stand by the Mayor in calling for a halt of surreptitious monitoring of elected officials and city employees.

"The FBI's attempt to place an informant to spy on local elected officials and their staff without any suspicion of wrongdoing may violate The Attorney General's Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering and Terrorism Enterprise Investigations. These guidelines clearly state that the development of informants are permitted in preliminary inquiries but only after a 'prompt and extremely limited checking of initial leads' has taken place. According to the guidelines, a preliminary inquiry 'should be undertaken when there is information or an allegation which indicates the possibility of criminal activity.' The FBI has made no such allegation here. Spying on elected officials in the absence of such allegations raises the specter that such actions may be politically motivated, and may lead to a climate of suspicion and fear.

"The government's monitoring of Americans' phone calls, illegal wiretapping phones, and mining for personal data suggest a concerted effort reminiscent of Big Brother. According to national media reports, the FBI continues to infiltrate, monitor and spy on critics and opponents of the Bush Administration without any suspicion of wrongdoing. These actions appear to be politically motivated, are likely to chill political dissent and may infringe upon fundamental freedoms protected under the U.S. and Oregon Constitutions."

# # #


Anarcho-Catholic 25.May.2006 12:57

OHHHH Mr. Potter is so Great. He is almost as good as Kerry.

Lets get real! Where has Tom been while the FBI was spying on us? Ill tell you he's been busy, oppressing the homeless, the activist, and dinning with the rich that oppress us all. Now they are spying on him and he speaks up to protect himself, and wants us to think he is a good guy. BULLSHIT!!! Our comrades have been being rounded up, interigated, and locked up. While potter drinks wine with the Portland Business Alliance. To the person who nominated Potter for President of Cascadia you should be ashamed of yourself. THERE WILL BE NO PRESIDENT OF CASCADIA! Potter doesn't care about me, he does not care about you, he simply dosn't want to be busted. SHED NO TEARS FOR CITY HALL, GIVE NO APPLAUSE FOR POTTER, STAND UP AGAINST THE CAPITALIST STATE AND FIGHT. TO all the working class warriors, MAY CHRIST BE WITH YOU!

to Anarcho-Catholic 25.May.2006 14:49

ecotopian yeti

just in case and for clarification I did not suggest Potter for Cascadian president, because I think Cascadian must never go the path of centralized figure heads or power, BUT I would welcome Potter and others to really look at "why the Hell are we still part of the Fascist Empire of Amerika?"

also in our path to an independant Cascadia we MUST deconstruct classism, capitalism, corporatism adn the other isms of hate.

FBI fishing expedition Washed OUT !!! 25.May.2006 16:41

T.Teater

FBI AGENT Pritchett as announced in the Oregonian this afternoon, was the Male whom approached the female City of Portland employee whom works in the City attorney's office.
Seems he in my opinion, got excited about what he saw ,working out at the gym,
at the same time as the City employee, and also crossing path's at the Starbucks
(seems like stalking)
So this was all just a conversation starter ??? and his supervisors knew nothing of it until the Calls from Potters Office.

Well, that will serve as a warning for hot to trot sexy looking FBI agents to keep their fishing Poles at Bay (pardon the Pun) and thats that.

I'm sure theirs way more to this...But for Now....

Way to Go Mayor Potter !!!

Oregon City, Oregon

cops and FBI 25.May.2006 17:50

salaud

Maybe I watched too much tv as a child. Maybe I've seen too many movies about local cops and the FBI. Maybe there is no shred of truth to the idea that the FBI likes to swoop and usurp the local police and that the police don't like the Federal Bureaucratic attittude.

Remember that Potter was first the local police chief. Then he wasn't given special clearance that was needed to get in on the JTTF, so he got pissed and kicked out the JTTF. The idea was that HE couldn't have oversight and that hurt his ego. It had nothing to do with whether the JTTF would come after citizens. He, most likely, just wanted to get the super spy dirt.

So, I'm pretty sure this is just another case of the local cops versus the FBI. Nothing more, nothing less. No political will involved. Just Ego.

Perspective check 25.May.2006 21:56

ani

Wow.

Writing this incident off as either a case of local cop vs. fbi ego wars, or socially inept guy tries to impress the ladies (hey babe, wanna be my informant, we could meet in a dark alley....) is ignoring the larger reality surrounding us-- quoting from the NW Constitutional Rights Center posting:


"The government's monitoring of Americans' phone calls, illegal wiretapping phones, and mining for personal data suggest a concerted effort reminiscent of Big Brother. According to national media reports, the FBI continues to infiltrate, monitor and spy on critics and opponents of the Bush Administration without any suspicion of wrongdoing. These actions appear to be politically motivated, are likely to chill political dissent and may infringe upon fundamental freedoms protected under the U.S. and Oregon Constitutions."

I really see no reason to disregard the fact that our Mayor is reporting that an fbi agent approached someone at city hall and asked them to be another set of eyes and ears for the feds. It is, in fact, really friggin' creepy.

That said, this seems a poor time to squabble over the future leadership structure of the autonomous free state of Cascadia. And this isn't really about Tom Potter, love him or hate him-- he is just the messenger.

As many have noted, this open letter by a Mayor of a fairly large city, exposing this attempt to place informants within a city hall must be connected with the rest of the Orwellian happenings at the federal levels. This information is raising awareness of the dangerously escalating surveillance culture past the borders of the activist community.

We must work together (SOLIDARITY) to raise awareness of the un-constitutional, anti-democratic executive branch. We must work together to remind folks who are not activists why we have a constitution (and what our constitutional rights are!), and how we must safeguard those rights.

Don't get me wrong, I love visioning what will come to be and what we will usher in when civilization collapses as much as the next Cascadian-- really I do. It's just that this is an opportunity to talk with other people, people who might also want to dream and build Cascadia, but they haven't named it yet. Folks who need the benefit of some seriously grounded discussion about political rights (the right to privacy as guaranteed in the 4th amendment-- or what's left of it, the right to dissent, the right to protest, the right to participate in free and fair elections) and human rights (the UN calls for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, "our" un-elected prez supports torture). The more folks become aware, the more they will become outraged. These travesties only happen when people of good hearts go to sleep (or, more likely, watch Fox television).

I really agree with Cat who posted earlier-- for a moment people in a larger circle are noticing the monsters under the beds. Let's reassure these folks that they aren't imagining them, that the monsters have been terrorizing the activist community, and that together we can be stronger than the monsters. Please let's all keep that discussion and awakening process going. Jim Hightower has a great two-part article summarizing the fascistic trends afoot federally-- you can find them at
 http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/articles/apr06_v8_n4/apr06_v8_n4_1.cfm
 http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/articles/may06_v8_n5/may06_v8_n5_1.cfm

Make copies of these and other relevant articles; leave them around your break rooms, worker bathrooms, coffee shops, laundry-mats, waiting rooms, etc.

Practice solidarity like our lives depend on it, cuz they do.

This shit's too important to just go back to our regular business.

actually, these are better links for the Hightower articles 25.May.2006 22:27

ani

I had originally read the Hightower articles on Alternet. For the full articles, try these links:
 http://www.alternet.org/story/35040/
 http://www.alternet.org/story/36593/

agree ani 26.May.2006 00:54

Ecotopian Yeti

this is not about Potter. it is about us. it is about Amerikan fascism. and it could be about envisioning a new paradigm which might be Cascadia (bit not Cascadian "leaders").

Right On, Ani and Cat 26.May.2006 09:39

Seeing the monster

Thanks for putting it so well.