April 28, 2011 - After a four-hour public hearing, the Portland City Council unanimously approved the resolution put forward by Mayor Sam Adams regarding the City's relationship with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. The ACLU of Oregon testified in support of the resolution at the public hearing but raised concerns about the current and past practices of the FBI and the need to ensure that City personnel comply with Oregon laws.
The Mayor’s proposal represents a thoughtful framework that should meet the City’s and the FBI’s needs to keep our community safe while also ensuring that Portland police stay within the confines of the Oregon Constitution and Oregon law.
The ACLU of Oregon sought protections consistent with the 2005 resolution passed by City Council and supported by the ACLU. These protections include that the Portland Police Bureau officers have the necessary ongoing training on the differences between Oregon law and the U.S. Attorney General guidelines, access to the City Attorney to ask questions if any work might be inconsistent with Oregon law, requirement to notify the Chief of Police and Commissioner-in-Charge of such violations, and a public annual report on the work PPB does with the FBI JTTF.
As the resolution acknowledges, Oregon law prohibits state and local police agencies from monitoring the lawful political and religious activities of Oregonians unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person or organization is or may be involved in criminal conduct.
Before City Council, Andrea Meyer, Legislative Director testified: “I want to be clear – it is not a question of if but when, our officers will be asked to engage in investigative activities in violation of Oregon law. To guard against this, we expect that there will be appropriate training of PPB personnel not just on Oregon law but on the FBI guidelines and the minimal criteria necessary for them to be able to engage in assessments and preliminary inquiries so that our PPB officers will be equipped to ask the right questions and refuse to participate and report this to the Chief and, in turn, the Commissioner-in-Charge.”
The ACLU had sought language that limited the PPB involvement to full investigations as used under the U.S. Attorney General guidelines. While that language was replaced in the final resolution, we urged its inclusion because many of the FBI abuses arise when the FBI is engaged in ‘assessments’ and ‘preliminary’ rather than ‘full’ investigations.” Restricting involvement by Portland police officers until there is evidence a particular individual or organization is involved in a terrorism conspiracy will prevent our police from being put in the difficult position of violating Oregon law, even unintentionally.
It is now documented beyond dispute that the FBI routinely violates even its own very lax federal restrictions. As a result, the FBI and its partners routinely violate the civil rights and civil liberties of thousands of innocent Americans.
The ACLU acknowledges that the Mayor’s proposal is not perfect. Nevertheless, the Mayor’s proposal will substantially reduce the risk that Oregon law will be violated by Portland police officers when they cooperate with the FBI in appropriate cases and we urged the Council to approve it.