March 27th, 2013 | by MICHAEL MUNKVOLD News | Posted In: City Hall, Politics, PDX News

City Council Questions FBI Task Force Report

Commissioners, public testimonials raise concerns about civil liberties

fbi jttfJTTF jacket - Federal Bureau of Investigation

 Even as Portland City Council today accepted the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force's annual report in a 3-2 vote, several commissioners voiced reservations about the lack of specific information in the report about the cases the task force investigates.

"I had different expectations for the report than what was in it. I was expecting more information," said Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who voted with Steve Novick against adopting the report. "I don't have to accept this report, and I don't."

Mayor Charlie Hales cast the deciding vote to accept the report. But Hales, who voted against the JTTF when he was a City Commissioner, said he wants to review policy and reporting mechanisms.

That makes three commissioners openly questioning the future of the partnership.

"Some of you know that I come to the question of the relationship between the City of Portland and the FBI with some history, and a deep skepticism. That skepticism remains," said Hales. "I also want to take to heart the comments made here today about how I as commissioner in charge of the police bureau should, and will, take a fresh look at... whether it's wise, good public policy and cost-effective for the Portland Police Bureau to be engaged in this work with the FBI."

The report, which was presented to the council by Police Chief Mike Reese, contains few details on the specific work performed by the two police officers assigned to the task force.

It says that the officers have worked on "at least one" domestic terrorism investigation in the last year, but provides no further details, citing security concerns.

Novick asked Reese why such information as who was being investigated should remain secret; Reese replied that revealing such information could potentially compromise the task force's work. 

"That would be a very detailed amount of information that would allow people, because of the limited number of resources we have, to determine where those resources were being applied, and potentially compromise sensitive investigations," Reese replied.

Reese said that the Portland Police Bureau is not an official member of the task force, and that their involvement is "very limited," with two officers participating in terrorism investigations on a "case-by-case basis."

He also said that it complied with state and federal law regarding the rights of terrorism suspects.

Representatives of several civil and human rights organizations cited the case of Mohamed Mohamud, who was arrested by FBI agents last year in a sting operation, as an example of their concerns.

"The secrecy in this report makes it very, very difficult to have confidence that the civil rights of the Muslim and Arab citizens of Portland are being protected," said Kayse Jama of the Center for Intercultural Organizing. "The FBI have used questionable tactics across the country, including the case of Mohamed Mohamud."

Other speakers said it was dangerous to partner with the FBI at all, characterizing the agency as inherently secretive and heavy-handed.

"The FBI is America's domestic secret police," said Portland attorney Greg Kafoury. "The pattern is clear: When real enemies are scarce they turn to potential enemies."

 
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