PORTLAND, Ore. – Portlanders packed a forum at Portland State University to weigh in on a crucial question: Should the city rejoin the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force or stay out?
Those were the questions on the table this week, when about 200 people turned out Thursday for a downtown Portland forum into whether the city should rejoin the federal task force.
Five years after Portland withdrew its task force membership, the issue is once again a topic following the alleged plot to blow up Pioneer Courthouse Square in November. In that case, it was the FBI's Portland task force connection that helped make an arrest, according to court documents related to bomb-plot-suspect Mohamed O. Mohamud's arrest.
Shortly after Mohamud's arrest, Portland Police Bureau Chief Mike Reese also revealed the FBI filled him in on the Pioneer Square bomb plot. However, he was sworn to secrecy.
"I had to sign a confidentiality agreement," Reese told KATU. "I wasn't at liberty to tell anyone – not even inside our department."
KATU Reporter Bob Heye reported this as one reason why Adams is now thinking about putting Portland police officers back on the FBI's joint task force.
One of the people at this week's forum was Brandon Mayfield. He's the local attorney the FBI falsely linked to the Madrid train bombing in 2004. Mayfield spoke out against rejoining the task force, saying he's uneasy about merging local police with the FBI.
"For the most part I think I'm cautious, and probably rightfully so based on what's happened to myself and my family and other members in the local community," Mayfield told our camera at Thursday's forum.
Mayfield's position is that this merging would give police more power to intrude in private lives.
The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is made up of 106 cities nationwide. It's a group that brings multiple law enforcement agencies together to fight terrorism.
At that time, the city council decided Portland needed more oversight into who its police force could investigate – hoping to quell investigations that target people merely for their religious, political or social views.
From 1997 to 2004, Portland's city council authorized the Portland Police Bureau to participate in the JTTF. Portland became the first U.S. city to pull out of the JTTF in April 2005.
At that time, the City Council limited the Portland Police Bureau's JTTF participation. Changes included reassigning JTTF officers to the city's criminal intelligence unit and limiting police "top secret" security clearances to "critical incidents or imminent terrorist threats."
Thursday night's meeting, at Portland State University's Smith Ballroom, was the first meeting coordinated by Mayor Sam Adams and the council to hear from the community about whether the city should or should not rejoin. He'll meet again with council, and representatives from agencies such as the ACLU and the federal government, in two other meetings – including one on Jan. 18.
Mayor Adams has scheduled a city council vote on the Joint Terrorism Task Force for Thursday, Feb. 24. That meeting will include time for a public hearing.
Portlanders weigh in on this issue at the Jan. 13 public forum: