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Friday, December 10, 2010

Mayor's Office Releases Draft of Terror Task Force Plan

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 4:40 PM

As promised, Mayor Sam Adams' office today released an early version of its plan for studying whether Portland should rejoin the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force—a plan that won't become final until next week, after residents have a chance to weigh on whether Adams is asking the right questions.

While there had been a sense this process could take months—a possibility I briefly mentioned in Hall Monitor this week—the current draft appears to offer an aggressive timeline, with a city council hearing targeted for late February.

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A project manager has already been tapped to oversee the study, Ellen Osoinach of the city attorney's office. Earlier today, US Attorney Dwight Holton, the top federal lawman in Portland, made a visit to the mayor's office.

Adams called for a study on the task force—which the city left in 2005—soon after the FBI-assisted plot to blow up Pioneer Courthouse Square. He rebuffed a call by political rival Dan Saltzman to ram through a vote on the matter by December 8.

The study will focus on three things: effectively blocking terrorism, protecting personal rights under state and federal law, and respecting Portland's premium on feeling inclusive.

Questions to be probed, so far, include: what would have been different in the bomb plot if the city were still a task force member (probably not), whether things have gotten better under Obama (maybe not), and whether the police bureau has any history of trampling on rights while spying. To help tease out those answers, the council would hold work sessions with groups like the ACLU (which is urging firmly against the idea).

The city had first joined the task force in 1997—well before the September 11 attacks, back when it was out to focus on homegrown right wingers. Membership was renewed quietly every year—unknown to the public—until Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman earlier this decade noticed it on the council's consent agenda and raised hell. Activists tried for years to persuade the city to rethink—a movement that got a lift after local attorney Brandon Mayfield's botched arrest by the FBI in 2004.

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