People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Second Joint Terrorism Task Force Report Nearly Rejected by City Council
Mayor Hales and members of the City Council received Chief Reese's second annual report about the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) report on March 27. Commissioners Fritz and Novick, questioning why the City should accept a report that was nearly a carbon copy of 2012's and essentially says nothing, voted against accepting the report. While Mayor Hales expressed his skepticism about working with the FBI on "terrorism" cases, and pledged to take a closer look at the underlying agreement with the FBI that mandated the report, he still voted to support his Chief; the vote was 3-2 (Commissioners Saltzman and Fish joined Hales).
The emptiness of the report can be encapsulated in the two tidbits of information it does include: That the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) helped the JTTF on "at least one case of domestic terrorism," and that the Chief allowed the officers to work on a case outside of Portland. It is not clear what kind of case is being referenced, how many others may have been worked on, and whether the out-of-town case led cops to other cities in Oregon or other states.
Other members of Council also expressed concerns about working with the FBI, acknowledging the testimony of the Japanese American Citizens League and Oregon Progressive Party about past abuses. It was suggested that Commissioner Fritz apply for "Secret" security status, but the City Attorney explicitly stated that the issue is not the status, but rather the confidentiality. Maybe rather than applying for security status, Commissioner Fritz can find out more information in a briefing by the Chief and City Attorney.
After the Chief told Commissioner Novick that he could not say why revealing what kinds of cases the Portland Police engaged in might jeopardize JTTF investigations, because saying that might itself jeopardize the investigations, there was a long, pregnant pause. It drew laughter, but underscored how the secrecy of the Task Force is an anathema to open, transparent and responsive government.
Nobody from the FBI or US Attorney's office came to address Council. Surely their presence could have helped better define the parameters of what can and can't be discussed.
Portland Copwatch also testified and submitted written testimony raising concerns about those times the Portland Police have admitted helping the FBI, albeit not as part of the JTTF. It was revealed during the trial of Mohamed Mohamud that the PPB helped the supposed bomb plot by securing Mohamud's parking space for the van of fake explosives (see article this issue). City employee Reaz Qadir Khan was accused in March of sending funds to "terror" groups in Pakistan. The Mayor's website states in that case too, "one patrol car was in the area of the search warrant for traffic control only." Both cases raise the question of whether the PPB demands information about whether reasonable suspicion of a crime exists before they agree to assist the FBI. If not, they are putting the City at considerable risk for violation of state law and possible civil action.
Also testifying on the JTTF report were the ACLU, League of Women Voters, and Center for Intercultural Organizing.
In February, Council voted to amend the Resolution directing the Chief to put out these reports each January. Their only change was to set the deadline to March. Mayor Hales seemed open to other changes including, perhaps, releasing the report two weeks in advance of the hearing. (That was the timeline in 2012, but this year the report was published only a week early.) It is possible that the lack of new information could lead Portland to return to its status from 2005-2011, working with the FBI upon request, but not as "part" of the JTTF.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.