February 29, 2012 – Significantly modified reports on the City of Portland’s relationship with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) were approved by the City Council after the ACLU’s testified they were greatly improved, but still lacked data that would permit the public to independently confirm that Oregon law and the Constitution are being honored by the City.
Last week, the ACLU had issued a detailed analysis that strongly criticized the original draft reports issued February 13 by Police Chief Mike Reese and Mayor Sam Adams. In prepared testimony today, ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque detailed the specific improvements in the final reports, which will be made annually to the City Council in the future.
“The City of Portland has now proven that a major city can work with the FBI on an individual case-by-case basis without being a full-fledged member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” Fidanque said. “Even more important is that Portland has implemented strong safeguards to ensure that its police officers will comply with the Constitution, state law and local policies.”
Even so, Fidanque urged the Mayor and Chief of Police to include specific data in future reports about the number of FBI requests and the FBI’s classification of those inquiries.
“The FBI operates under very different rules from the City of Portland,” Fidanque said. “The resolution establishing boundaries and providing safeguards approved by the Council a year ago was designed to require articulable facts, rather than just the whim of an individual FBI agent, before the City of Portland gets involved. Each year, the FBI launches thousands of supposedly terrorist-related ‘assessments’ and ‘preliminary investigations’ without facts that would create a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.”
Fidanque said that at a minimum the Council should ensure that a permanent log is kept of all FBI requests of the Police Bureau so that cumulative data can be released in future years. He also noted that the FBI itself has released data about the number of “assessments” it has opened and also disclosed that more than 95% of those inquiries were closed without ever becoming either “preliminary” of “full” investigations.
Other public testimony at the Council hearing also raised concerns about the lack of data in the report, but raised additional concerns, including the racial, religious and ethnic “mapping” being carried out by the FBI in some parts of the country.
Jim Kennedy of the Arab Muslim Police Advisory Council (AMPAC) told the Council that many in his community had lost trust in the Police Bureau since approval of the Council resolution last year. After being asked by Mayor Adams if he understood that Portland has not rejoined the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Kennedy replied that most members of the Arab and Muslim communities don’t appreciate that distinction because all they see is the Police Bureau working with the FBI and they have no trust for the FBI.
Others who raised concerns about the lack of data in the reports and the Council resolution were Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, Mary McWilliams of the League of Women Voters and Ashlee Albies of the League of Women Voters of Portland.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz echoed the concerns about the lack of data in the reports and asked Police Chief Mike Reese to commit to disclosing more information in future reports. The ensuing discussion was eventually cut off by Mayor Sam Adams who said the concerns would be considered by him and the Chief later. The reports were then approved on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Fritz voting “No.”