Over the objection of the city’s police chief and mayor, Portland, Oregon’s city council on Wednesday narrowly voted to stop cooperating with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), citing alleged surveillance of left-wing activists and arguing that the partnership between local officials and federal authorities was ultimately ineffective.
Law enforcement officials said a similar decision by San Francisco officials in 2017 had endangered the public, and that the New York City Police Department’s membership in the JTTF has directly helped foil numerous terrorists, including would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
Portland, a virulently left-wing city, has had a rocky relationship with the JTTF. The city joined the partnership in the 1990s, left shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and signed back up in 2015.
The latest split with the JTTF was a narrow one, with Mayor Ted Wheeler — who muttered late last year that he “can’t wait” to leave his job — and another commissioner voicing support for the law enforcement coalition. Portland’s ironically named police chief, Danielle Outlaw, said the partnership ultimately benefited both thet city and the FBI, and repeatedly sought to downplay fears that local officials would share immigration information with the JTTF.
“As law enforcement officers and as a community, we need to be vigilant about these issues, but we also need to be vigilant about real threats and the fact that there are people intent on harming our community,” Outlaw said in a Twitter video this week.
Nick Fish, a commissioner who voted to keep the JTTF arrangement, said the withdrawal was counterproductive.
“The FBI will continue doing this work without our involvement,” Fish said. “I’d rather have our values at the table. Why would we walk away and forfeit our opportunity for oversight of their work?”
But other officials in the city’s leadership took a dimmer view of the FBI’s role in the city, and the city council killed the partnership by a 3-2 vote. The move becomes effective within 60 days, although several other local law enforcement agencies will remain partnered with JTTF.
“How do we justify the risk of civil and human rights violations by our continued involvement in JTTF?” one commissioner, Chloe Eudaly, asked at a hearing this week, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “That is the core question for me in this conversation.”
Added another commissioner, Amanda Fritz: “The city of Boston’s participation in the JTTF did not prevent the Boston Marathon bombing. The city of Portland’s participation in the JTTF did not prevent he MAX stabbings.”
Fritz said later: ““The current president has made clear his animosity toward Muslims, immigrants and people of color. I found it hard to trust the JTTF under President Obama. It’s impossible now.”
The commissioners also raised concerns that the FBI devotes too many resources to probing Portland’s radical left-wing groups, and not enough to white supremacists. One of those commissioners, Jo Ann Hardesty, introduced the resolution to pull Portland out of the JTTF.
“We’ve seen the Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups marching throughout the street,” Hardesty told Renn Cannon, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, at a hearing. “We’ve seen Portland police officers attack counterprotesters. Is that a model of law enforcement living up to what you believe their role should be?”
Such episodes, however, have not been confined to white supremacist groups. Fox News reported last October that Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland bullied an elderly motorist, verbally attack a senior citizen in a wheelchair and disrupted traffic during a weekend demonstration caught in a series of stunning videos — that also showed no police presence as the chaos unfolded.
The group of more than 100 people initially began marching through the streets of the Oregon city to protest the death of Patrick Kimmons, who was fatally shot by police Sept. 30 after a gunfight that left two men wounded at a parking lot near Southwest Third Avenue.
But the scene quickly erupted into violence, as footage showed bystanders bleeding from the head on sidewalks.
Meanwhile, the conservative Patriot Prayer group and counterdemonstrators with Antifa got into a bloody melee outside a popular bar where members on both sides used bear spray, fists and batons to savagely beat one another, The Oregonian reported.
Distrust of law enforcement and a breakdown of local order and even hygeine are nothing new for Portland. Last summer, Portland city officials acknowledged they would clean up what residents called a “disgusting” Occupy ICE camp, set up to protest Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
In a statement, FBI officials in Oregon said they understand the community’s frustration, and that their mission will remain unaffected.
“The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. With the withdrawal of the city of Portland from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, that mission doesn’t change,” Cannon, the FBI’s top agent in Oregon, said.
“The agents, analysts, language specialists, legal experts and other professional staff of the FBI who work every day to keep our community safe will continue to do so, addressing threats of violence and criminal activity that impact our neighborhoods,” Cannon continued. “To this end, the FBI will continue to partner formally with other members of the JTTF as well as informally with cities and counties across the state to share information and address threats as appropriate.”
Cannon added that “recognizing the fears that exist in the community, we will continue to visit with community leaders and work together to keep Oregon safe while addressing those factors that can drive a wedge between us.”
In testimony before the city council, the two Portland police officers assigned to the JTTF denied that they had violated any laws or profiled anyone improperly.
Other panelists, however, said the FBI had unfairly targeted Muslims in the community as well. Kayse Jama, a local resident and Somali-American, said the JTTF was antithetical to Portland’s values.
“I’m tired of this city paying lip service to the idea of being a sanctuary city,” Jama said. “My community is very fearful, just of getting a knock on the door.”
The JTTF has been credited with foiling more than 93 Islamist terrorist attacks and plots against the U.S. since 2001, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation.
“There is less chance of uncovering networks, plots, missing pieces of a puzzle, without cities participating in the JTTF,” Claude Arnold, a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, told Fox News.