DAN SALTZMAN IS GAMBLING. In the hubbub over the Very Serious Plot to Blow Up Pioneer Courthouse Square, the city commissioner with the least sexy list of duties saw an opportunity to score political points—and headlines. And he's running with it.
On Monday, November 29, after a chat with Mayor Sam Adams, Saltzman became the first public official to demand the city rejoin a federal counter-terror task force it left decisively in 2005, partly amid civil liberties concerns.
And Saltzman—the only commissioner who opposed the withdrawal—clearly wants to strike while the iron of public outrage remains hot. He urged a vote by next Wednesday, December 8.
Otherwise, he told me, "it's possible to parse around this issue forever."
The timing of his release was dramatic, coming just hours before the bomb plot suspect, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was trotted out in court for the first time. It also stinks of politics. Public safety plays well with a certain brand of (well-heeled) voters, and let's not forget that Saltzman says he's open to challenging Adams in 2012.
Saltzman's timeline, however, appears unlikely. Especially on a council that prefers to move in unanimous, Stepford-like harmony. Shortly after Saltzman's announcement, Adams—walking a fine political line himself—politely pissed all over it.
"Not at this point," Adams said when asked if he favored the idea. "That doesn't mean that I won't."
Adams wants to ensure his past concerns about the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) have been resolved before he reconsiders embedding Portland cops in the FBI, outside city control. That's why he wants a "fact-based" study of whether the FBI, under new management, has become more sensitive to things like, oh, the rule of law.
(Also, funneling the debate through a study process he controls may allow Adams to claim ownership of what- ever emerges.)
But is this debate even necessary? Saltzman admitted he wasn't sure how differently Mohamud's arrest might have gone. Cooperation is actually pretty good, he says: "We have done a good work-around."
The ACLU of Oregon is worried. Executive Director David Fidanque mentions Brandon Mayfield—the local lawyer mistakenly tied to 2004's Spanish train bombings—as an example of how a zealous FBI can get things terribly, horribly wrong.
"Getting out of the JTTF was the right thing to do," he says. And on Friday, Portland cops "didn't need to be part of the JTTF to cooperate with the FBI."