April 16, 2013 - Lake Oswego City Council is set to vote on a proposal to join the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) this evening, without discussion. The ACLU is urging the Council to postpone the vote until more details on the agreement between local law enforcement and the FBI can be reviewed.
UPDATE: April 17, 2013 - The Lake Oswego City Council voted unanimously to join the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
The efforts to improve communication and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, including between the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, is important. As yesterday’s events in Boston have once again illustrated, such cooperation can be essential to protect public safety. However, the FBI and other federal agencies operate under very different laws and policies than state and local police agencies are required to follow here in Oregon.
Unfortunately, the FBI’s standard agreement for participation by local agencies in their Joint Terrorism Task Forces does not make any accommodation for those different standards and requirements. Indeed, that standard agreement makes it extremely likely that local police officers, once deputized as members of the FBI JTTF, will engage in activities that violate the important protections and safeguards of Oregon law and the Oregon Constitution.
Contrary to some recent reports in the news media, the City of Portland did not rejoin the Portland JTTF in 2011. Instead, Portland agreed to cooperate with the FBI and the JTTF on a case-by-case basis that permits meaningful cooperation as well as regular briefings for the police chief, Mayor and other police personnel while also ensuring that city officials continue to comply with Oregon law.
In particular, ORS 181.575 prohibits state and local police officials from either “collecting” or “maintaining” records that include information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual or organization unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the subject of the information is or “or may be” involved in criminal conduct.
In contrast, FBI policies and the U.S. Attorney General Guidelines specifically allow the collection and maintenance of extensive information regarding the political, religious and social activities of individuals and organizations even when there is no individualized suspicion of criminal wrongdoing nor of a conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism or any other crime.
Even under Oregon’s relatively strict standard, innocent people are often caught up in investigations because those individuals may have associated with groups, attended public events or interacted with one or more third party suspects through day-to-day contact—none of which relates directly to that third party’s suspected criminal activity. Often, such incidental contact has led to intensive investigations of such individuals who are eventually proven by law enforcement officials to be completely innocent.
Under Oregon law, such files involving the constitutionally protected activities of those innocent individuals would be reviewed and purged. However, since all such information gathered by the JTTF is collected and maintained as FBI files, that information will continue to be maintained indefinitely.