PORTLAND, Ore. - Some city leaders said Monday they are rethinking a 5-year-old decision to leave federal antiterrorism efforts after the alleged bombing plot downtown last Friday, but some who backed that decision said the fact the suspect’s capture came off without a hitch shows the current arrangement works.
That arrangement kept Portland’s police chief, Mike Reese, in the know about what was about to happen but the city’s mayor, Sam Adams, was kept out of the loop. Mohamed Mohamud was already in custody by the time Adams knew anything about it.
The FBI only let Reese know what was happening after he signed a confidentiality agreement.
“I wasn’t at liberty to tell anyone, not even inside our department,” Reese said.
It’s one reason Adams said he is now thinking about putting Portland police officers back on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“I think enough time has passed and there have been enough changes, it’s really important that we check in,” Adams said.
City Commissioner Dan Saltzman said Monday he also wants Portland police officers on the task force.
“The notion that something can’t happen here has really been dispelled,” he said. “And I think for a variety of reasons, this being one of them, that it is time for Portland’s city council to reconsider joining or rejoining the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Portland stopped helping out on the JTTF in 2005 over concerns the mayor couldn’t monitor what Portland police officers were doing for the task force. There were also concerns the mayor couldn’t get high enough security clearance to monitor those activities.
Those concerns came to a head in 2004 when the FBI arrested and wrongly accused local lawyer Brandon Mayfield of ties to a train bombing in Madrid, Spain.
That case still bothers City Commissioner Randy Leonard.
“I think Commissioner Saltzman is having an emotional reaction to an incident that requires thought and requires certainty,” Leonard said. “And I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, particularly when the system that we developed worked so well.”
Beaverton and Gresham don’t take part in the terrorism task force anymore. According to the city of Beaverton, it can’t afford to have an officer dedicated to the JTTF.
Saltzman said he plans to bring a resolution to rejoin the task force in front of Portland’s city council Dec. 8.
Meanwhile, City Commissioner Nick Fish is reviewing policies for large events at Pioneer Courthouse Square when more than 5,000 people attend.
He wants to change the policy to prevent parking around streets that border the square. That’s where police say an undercover FBI agent and Mohamud parked the van with fake explosives Friday night.
Fish has spoken with Reese about his proposal.