To the people of Portland:
On Wednesday, November 22, Portland's City Council passed two ordinances greatly enhancing the FBI's reach into local law enforcement, and expanding the Police Bureau's mission from enforcing local laws to "anti-terrorism."
The items were placed on the "consent" agenda (meaning, they were meant to be passed without discussion), both as "emergency ordinances" (meaning they went into effect immediately after Council adopted both unanimously). The only reason they were discussed at all was that I happened to be going to watch PIIAC appeals scheduled at Council and requested they be put onto the regular agenda.
Here's the lowdown, and the little glimmer of good news, if you can call it that.
The first ordinance, giving the FBI direct computer access to Portland's criminal identification database, allegedly will cut administrative hassles by not making the FBI have to access the data through the PPB any more. Of course, anyone arrested _wrongfully_--for instance, the numerous "suspects" arrested on May Day and on S26 who were "no-complainted" or found not guilty--will be in the database as a criminal suspect.
The second, more onerous one, formally adopted a "Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force" (note that it's not an _anti-terrorism_ task force....) consisting of eight Portland officers, 12 FBI agents, and members of the Beaverton, Eugene, and Oregon State Police. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Chief Kroeker and David Szady of the FBI in late September specifically mentions the use of informants and the deputization as Federal agents of the local officers assigned to the "PJTTF."
Oh, yeah, I mentioned a silver lining. In the MOU and the original ordinance, the mission of the PJTTF is proposed to be: "to identify and target for prosecution those individuals or groups who are responsible for Right Wing and/or Left Wing movements, as well as acts of the anti-abortion movement and the Animal Liberation Front/Earth Liberation Front." When Commissioner Charlie Hales read this language, he declared it made him uncomfortable. He noted that some people think the City Council is a "left Wing organizaiton." (insert sarcastic remark here.) He felt strongly that the mission should be confined to investigating criminal terrorist activity. The Council voted to adopt new language, which was not speifically read on Wednesday, to that effect.
While I did my best to point out a number of chilling implications--the Federalization of the police (Oh, by the way, the PPB's Criminal Intelligence Unit is now housed in the Federal Building); the lack of clearly defined "criminal activity" (will it be marching without a permit? refusing to move off of a sidewalk when an officer tells you to?) and the similarities to McCartyism (are you now or have you ever been a member of City Council?), the ordinances both passed, as I said, unanimously.
It occurred to me later that the odds of being hit by a MAX light rail train are greater than being the victim of a terrorist attack in Portland. (I did point out that the Portland Officer who was killed on TWA flight 800 was_not_ the victim of a terrorist attack by anyone's reading of that crash.)*
Well, I'm sure all of you will want to know more; there are people getting geared up to oppose this. In fact, several have signed up for time on the Wednesday, December 6 City Council agenda (by emailing Council Clerk Britta Olson at email@example.com before the end of the day Thursday). However, I'm afraid we may have to wait until this contract runs out in September, 2001.
*--of course, if you believe the government downed flight 800, as many do, than you should be glad for the PJTTF; they say they will target any group of two or more people using violence to try to foster political change. I guess the Feds and the Portland Police will be getting hauled in any day now. :)
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