On Wednesday, March 27, 2013 Portland JACL Board Member Jim Kennedy testified before the Portland City Council in opposition to the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force a partenership between the Portland Police Buearu and the FBI.
Mr. Kennedy acknowledgied the amount of thought and effort that the City and Portland Police Bureau has demonstrated to craft and implement the resolution to work with the Joint Terrorisn Task Force (JTTF) and the efforts put in place to ensure the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) resources are not used in violation of state law against spying without criminal suspicion are laudable.
Mr. Kennedy’s Full Testimony
To Mayor Hales and City Commissioners:
I would like to start by acknowledging the amount of thought and effort that the City and Portland Police Bureau have demonstrated to craft and implement the resolution to work with the JTTF. The efforts put in place to ensure PPB resources are not used in violation of state law against spying without criminal suspicion are laudable. For example the Chief’s report mentions training and access to the City Attorney for PPB resources to understand Oregon laws and civil liberties is good practice.
We also understand that the city feels some obligation to participate in the JTTF to protect our city against threats of terrorism. However, we are dubious of the effectiveness of having PPB resources work on FBI directives because the secretive nature of FBI investigations are an affront to the open and citizen focused government for which Portland is noted and for which we are proud. While the Chief’s report may meet the requirements stipulated in the JTTF resolution, it falls very short of proper disclosure regarding how and to what degree PPB resources were used in JTTF investigations. The absence of disclosure makes it impossible for Portland residents to determine if PPB resources were involved in effective activities, or more concerning, involved in activities that compromise the civil rights protecting Oregonians from having information gathered on them without proper criminal suspicion. In this regard the Chief’s report offers little comfort to Portland JACL.
Section 1 of the report states that the PPB “have implemented policies, procedures, and oversight mechanisms that enable us to effectively investigate terrorist threats, protect civil rights and civil liberties, and promote an open and inclusive community.” Unfortunately, any endeavor with the FBI defies openness. However rigorous the mechanisms may be, the fact is they are wrapped in secrecy due to the nature of working with the FBI. Throughout its existence the FBI has demonstrated again and again that their priorities of enforcement to protect the American people override the civil rights of the very citizens they strive to protect. Simply stated, the FBI’s priorities do not align with the goal of promoting an open and inclusive community.
This remains as true today as in 1942 when Japanese Americans were targets of the FBI’s enforcement actions. In 2011 during the debate regarding the resolution to work with the JTTF, Portland JACL was criticized for bringing up the violations of civil rights imposed upon Japanese Americans by the FBI during WWII. WWII was deemed too far in the past to be relevant to the current situation with terrorism. However, members of our community can still listen to first-hand accounts of those times when the FBI disregarded the civil rights of our forefathers in pursuit of their enforcement objectives, so it is still real to us. During WWII it was easy to target Japanese Americans because they looked similar to or possibly had sympathies for our enemy. In 1988 the United States Congress and the President apologized for the grave injustice to citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry for actions that were “carried out without adequate security reasons and without any acts of espionage or sabotage, and were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”
Seventy years after Pearl Harbor and Eleven years after 9/11, we fear the FBI continues to prioritize their enforcement goals over the civil rights of Arab and Muslim Americans in an unending war against terrorism. Arab/Muslim Americans today distrust the FBI and the JTTF resolution extends distrust to the PPB. The resolution to work with the JTTF, however carefully crafted, places in question the City’s priority to protect the civil rights of its residents and, unfortunately the Chief’s report, veiled in secrecy, only adds to the suspicion that the PPB are involved in unwarranted searches and investigations. Certainly, the report offers the citizen’s of Portland no ability to weigh the effectiveness of the JTTF program and so we depend upon the oversight of the City Council, and specifically the Mayor as Commissioner in Charge to judge the effectiveness and weigh it against the trust and comfort of its Arab & Muslim residents being targeted by this agreement. We call upon you to not let any citizens of Portland have their civil rights compromised by city employees or become disenfranchised from the City and the PPB by imposing this air of secrecy around a City sanctioned program. Portland JACL requests the City Council to put an end to the resolution to work with the JTTF and bring openness and inclusiveness back to the top of Portland’s priorities.