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March 16th, 2011 JAMES PITKIN | Cops and Courts
 

JTTF: WTF?

news2-mayor_3719ILLUSTRATION: Shannon Wheeler
Last week, Mayor Sam Adams canceled for the third time a hearing on whether Portland should rejoin the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. 

And so far, Commissioner Randy Leonard is the only person in City Hall talking about why.

Adams’ latest cancellation came after he floated a draft resolution to his City Council colleagues setting terms for rejoining the task force Portland backed out of in 2005 over civil-rights concerns. Commissioner Dan Saltzman called for rejoining the task force after Mohamed Mohamud’s arrest in November for an alleged attempt to bomb Pioneer Courthouse Square when it was packed for the annual holiday tree lighting.

Leonard tells WW the proposed resolution put Portland cops too deep into the JTTF.

“What the agreement appeared to be giving [the feds] was unlimited access to officers,” Leonard says. “If they request we have meetings occasionally where we brief officers about ongoing issues, and a couple of our officers regularly attend those, I don’t have a problem with that. That’s information sharing, versus culling information.”

Immediately after Leonard met with city staff March 11, Adams canceled a March 17 hearing.

Sources say the previous two delays were due to the feds, but this time it was Leonard who scuttled a March 11 deadline for sending the city’s draft proposal to the FBI.

In a protest that day at City Hall, Leonard told activists he would vote against full participation in JTTF. No one else besides Leonard on the five-member City Council would comment publicly on that draft resolution or on details of the negotiations.

“Because it’s in the midst of those negotiations, I’m not going to comment on anything specifically,” Adams says. “I’m not going to give up on those negotiations, as difficult as they are.”

Insiders say there is more agreement than disagreement on the Council. All believe Police Chief Mike Reese should be given top-secret security clearance—the highest clearance that enables officials to learn about intelligence sources. And there’s agreement on giving the police chief the discretion to decide when officers attend JTTF. 

But U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton says he wants Portland cops at daily briefings at the FBI’s downtown headquarters—a level of participation Leonard says he can’t support.

Another issue is how much oversight the city should have over its officers.

“We need something more assuring in the agreement to not allow officers to be used if the mayor has not been consulted in terrorism cases,” Leonard says. “I wasn’t assured what I looked at had language that accomplished that.”

Leonard has a personal stake in the Council decision—he helped write the 2005 resolution that made Portland the only city in America to back out of full participation in the task force. He says he recommended the city now go back and tweak that resolution rather than continuing the attempt to draft a new one.

“I said, ‘You’re barking up the wrong tree,’” Leonard says. “‘You’re trying to be a full-fledged partner, and [the FBI’s] position has not changed.’”

Since Adams is believed to already have a majority of three votes on the Council, it’s an open question why Leonard would have the power to quash the deal. 

Saltzman is the strongest advocate for rejoining. Commissioner Nick Fish has been heavily involved in the negotiations, though he is believed to be less gung-ho than Saltzman. Commissioner Amanda Fritz has not been engaged but is expected to vote against rejoining.

By gaining the broadest possible consensus on the Council and forging a deal that will allow both Saltzman and Leonard to declare victory, Adams would chalk up a political win. But to get there, he also needs an agreement the FBI will accept.

“The impression I have is that the mayor’s been trying to thread the needle,” says Dave Fidanque, head of the Oregon ACLU, which opposes rejoining JTTF. “The question is whether he can be successful in appeasing all sides.” 


FACT: The city attorney’s office refused to release the draft resolution, calling it “attorney work product.”

 
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