Adams says JTTF proposal protects city, civil liberties
UPDATE • U.S. attorney wants city to remove 'roadblock' provision
Mayor Sam Adams says his proposal allowing the city to rejoin the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force would create a partnership and protect Portland residents' civil liberties.
In a statement posted Wednesday morning on his website, Adams wrote that his proposal 'offers the federal government a new approach and a stronger partnership to prevent terrorism, protect civil rights and liberties, and enhance Portland's value of an open and inclusive community.'
Adams told the Tribune that both he and the FBI had offered compromises during weeks of negotiations on the proposal. Adams said he did not know when the City Council would vote on the proposal, he wanted a 'robust discussion' of the issue before making a decision.
'The status quo is not working,' Adams said of the council's decision six years ago to withdraw from the task force. 'It does not serve the public interest and I want to change that.'
On Wednesday morning, the council agreed to hold a hearing on the proposal at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 28. No decision was made on whether to vote on the proposal at that time.
U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton wrote in an April 19 letter to Adams that only one 'roadblock' stood in the way of the city rejoining the task force.
Holton wrote that a provision limiting participation by city police officers in some, but not all, investigations might prevent them from being part of the FBI group.
'I would like nothing more than for the city of Portland and (the Portland Police Bureau) to fully rejoin the JTTF team,' Holton wrote.
'With the removal of the one provision that drifts into operational directive rather than policy, we can reach agreement and get back to work. I hope that is the direction the City Council chooses to go.'
Top secret clearance
Adams' proposal released Wednesday would allow three to five Portland police officers to assist in some, but not all, task force investigations. They would also participate in regular briefings, while the police commissioner and police chief would briefed at least twice a year on the task force's work.
The proposal would bar police officers from participating in investigations that violate Oregon law prohibiting law enforcement agencies from targeting individuals or organizations because of their political or religious views.
One controversial provision would prevent the officers from participating in preliminary terrorism investigations. It would restrict their participation to 'full investigations, as defined in the U.S. attorney general guidelines for domestic FBI operations, including a terrorism-related or intelligence-related investigation, unless a critical incident or imminent terrorist threat, as determined by the FBI, exists.'
The proposal also requires the police commissioner to seek 'secret level' clearance and the police chief to seek clearance at the 'top secret/secure compartmentalized information' level.
'Not making us safer'
The joint task force is one of several anti-terrorism groups formed around the country in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Portland's City Council withdrew the Police Bureau from the local task force after then-Mayor Tom Potter complained he could not adequately supervise them as police commissioner.
The issue resurfaced in late November 2010 when the FBI arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud for allegedly plotting to bomb the Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. The FBI briefed Police Chief Mike Reese about the investigation shortly before arrest. Adams was not notified until afterward the arrest.
'The current situation is not making us safer and not guaranteeing that civil rights are protected,' Adams said. 'What I'm proposing will do both.'