Concerns about the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Portland JACL expressed before the City Council in 2005 remain true today.
Although administrations have changed, the FBI still remains the same.
The following is an Oregonian Op-Ed article written by Portland JACL Co-Presidents Jim Kennedy and Jeff Selby.
Sixty years ago in the name of security, Japanese Americans were subjected to curfews, search, restrictions and finally incarceration without just cause, as a frightened public encouraged the targeted enforcement. Japanese Americans spoke out for 40 years until the nation finally recognized the discrimination and acknowledged the unlawful violation of the civil rights of Japanese Americans. Five years ago, Portland JACL spoke out in support of the city’s decision to disengage from the JTTF because we were concerned for the civil rights of Portland residents and suspicious of the powers granted by the Patriot Act. Japanese Americans understand what can happen when FBI enforcement in the name of security is allowed to operate without public oversight.
The concerns about the JTTF we expressed before the City Council in 2005 remain true today. Although administrations have changed, the FBI has remained the same. Indeed, the documented abuses across the country by the FBI, especially through JTTFs, have only increased in the past few years. The FBI has placed informants in mosques and in other peaceful organizations around the country, collecting information on attendees and violating their First Amendment rights. Certainly we have seen examples of these FBI practices here in Portland.
By refusing to be part of the JTTF, Portland ensures its police officers do not participate in information- gathering operations on Portlanders. While the Patriot Act and the FBI guidelines give the FBI powers to spy on Americans, Oregon state law prohibits its law enforcement officers from investigating citizens without suspicion of criminal activity. Without public oversight, including the Police Commissioner and City Attorney, we cannot be certain that police officers are operating within state statutes that safeguard our right to freely practice religion and engage in lawful free speech. In addition, Portland police are not excluded from engaging in anti-terror operations in specific cases where criminal suspicion warrants action. In the Portland tree-lighting sting, Chief Reese was informed of the operation and could deploy officers to assist as necessary to protect Portlanders.
Being part of the JTTF does not make Portlanders safer. It takes police officers away from community policing and places them in the position of possibly violating innocent citizens’ civil rights and state law. Further, when local police officers spy on their citizens, public trust is impaired. For these reasons, the Mayor and City Council made the right choice for Portland five years ago and Portland JACL does not approve of re-joining the JTTF now.
Portland JACL Board