The Portland Tribune has been trying to make a name for itself lately, most recently with the discovery of investigative files Portland police kept on political activists through the early 1980s (The secret watchers, Sept. 13 et seq.).
The Tribune, however, wants to decide which of these documents the public gets to see. The paper offers those who believe they were named in the documents the opportunity to contact the Tribune for a peek at the information that pertains to them. This method, it claims, will protect privacy rights. But perhaps there's a case to be made that it would be better for the public to see for themselves whose names are in the files, providing there's a suitable repository and system for viewing.
There is something particularly disingenuous about a newspaper taking on a government agency for clandestine surveillance of private citizens, and then casting a veil of secrecy over these important historical documents in the name of privacy. It is clear from the information the Tribune has chosen to reveal that the names and photographs of a number of public officials appear in these files. Of course, the public knows only about the ones the Tribune has published. What other public officials or public figures might have caught the eye of Portland police? How about members of the news media, including Tribune reporters and editors Ñ are any of them listed?
The media take care of their own just like the cops do. There is even less accountability in journalism than there is in police work. Ultimately, however, both reporters and cops are accountable to the public.
The public should have the opportunity in this case to see what both the cops and the journalists have been up to.
The Tribune needs to preserve these documents and make them available for public inspection. Anything less than complete disclosure is tantamount to hypocrisy and should open the Tribune up to critics who say it Ñ along with the cops Ñ have much to hide.
Lee T. White
(Editor's note: The Tribune thinks individuals have a right to see the political-intelligence information gathered about them. It would be easier to provide that information if the files were organized by name, but they are not. The collection was built as files on organizations.
(The Tribune's focus has been to bring the story of these secret files to our readers. Upon completion of that work, we will seek advice from historians, archivists and others about what should happen to them.
(We, too, were interested in whether any Tribune staffers made the files. We haven't found any Trib staffers named in reports or pictured in surveillance photographs, although their bylines appear on some of the old news clippings.)
Activists well aware
of police overzealousness
Excellent work on the 'The Secret Watchers' articles (Sept. 13 et seq.). Anyone who has been an activist in any city in the United States knows that this activity occurred and continues to occur throughout the country. The recent jury award of more than $4 million against the FBI and the Oakland, Calif., police for their violations of the First and Fourth Amendment rights of environmental activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney shows clearly that the activity continues.
A couple of comments on the content of your articles so far:
Every experienced activist knows of specific incidents similar to the alleged acts of agent provocateurs described in your article. When police actively commit crimes or incite others to commit crimes, they are nothing more than rogue cops, common criminals who should be tried and convicted for their crimes.
Second, former Mayor Neil Goldschmidt claims that he knew nothing about what the police bureau was doing during his mayoral years. I simply don't believe him.
When I worked closely with the mayor's staff in the early 1970s, reform of the police bureau was one of two top priorities in his administration. Part of that reform was to hire Bruce Baker as chief. Baker came to Portland with special skills, honed during his years as chief of police in Berkeley, Calif., during the '60s.
I lived and practiced activism in Berkeley throughout the '60s, and I remember specific instances of local police gathering information and committing acts of agent provocateurs like those detailed in your series. These were deliberate acts, often violent, and were directed from the top, in collaboration with the FBI and other agencies.
Third, regarding the present mayor, Vera Katz, whose photo in your first article is simply fetching, I would like to know how she voted as a state representative on the law passed in 1981 that outlawed the police activities described in your series. Perhaps this is an interesting question for follow-up work.
Your series is timely, given the relationship between the police bureau's Crime Intelligence Unit and the Portland FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. One might well ask whether these groups contain rogue cops and whether their purpose is to combat or commit terrorism.
9-11 wasn't only attack
we should worry about
Last year, two days after Sept. 11, I walked to the bus stop at Southeast 28th and Powell and found this beautifully written on the shelter there:
When will the industrial
attack on the natural
world elicit the same response
as an attack on our people?
For in reality, the casualties
of our war on the earth
are much greater.
Targeting of Muslims
is a troubling sign
Indiscriminate targeting of American Muslims such as Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, a model community member and pious spiritual leader, is an affront to justice (Sheik knew eyes were on him, Sept. 11). It serves as a stark reminder of how our civil rights are being severely tarnished, all in the name of anti-terrorism.
The Social Security charges brought against Kariye should have been addressed by the Social Security Administration, not the Portland FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Labeling individuals as terrorists because they belong to a particular religious group is not a reflection of a country founded on the premise of civil rights.
The targeting of Muslims is akin to what occurred to others in Nazi Germany and the McCarthy era. Thousands of people have died preserving civil rights. It is our duty to uphold these rights and give vitality to the Constitution. If we don't, we are no better then the Nazis.
Craving for power is real
reason for war on Iraq
We must resist the intensifying attempts to 'manufacture consent' for a war on Iraq. Politicians and the media seek to rouse our panic and rage, overwhelming us with self-righteous blood lust. We must take the time to think and question. I believe that lust for power underlies this vision of invasion and Muslim submission.
What we really need is to heal, and war will not do it, though it might get the adrenaline pumping. War is a dangerous addiction from which our great nation needs to be freed.