"ABSOLUTELY. I WILL TRY." It's not the most encouraging answer. But that's as far as Mayor Sam Adams would go when I pressed him recently about a community demand for ample time to review an upcoming report on Portland's cooperation thus far with a controversial federal anti-terrorism task force.
Adams offered that tentative promise after the city council voted Wednesday, January 25, to delay the long-promised report until the end of February. The delay, he says, will give his office, the police bureau, and the city attorney's staff breathing room to "get it right."
But as for what that report on the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) might actually say? He was far less committal. And that's a much bigger problem.
The promise of a report was a key factor in the compromise last April—between the feds and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon—that led Portland to reunite with the JTTF years after the city first dropped out. Civil liberties advocates rightly complain the report will be meaningless without real, robust data.
For example: How many officers have been assigned to terror cases and for how long? And how often have those officers questioned whether their work was violating state civil liberties laws? Both of those were among a handful of recommendations urged by the ACLU last spring and they were repeated in an open letter presented by several groups at council last week.
Adams demurred, saying he first plans to poll his fellow commissioners about what kinds of details they would like to see.
"I'd like as much detail as possible to ensure our legal rights have been protected," Adams told me, "but not so much detail that we undermine our ability to protect ourselves from terrorism."
Adams is also at the mercy of the city attorney's office and Police Chief Mike Reese. Reese has already obtained "secret" clearance, a window into the real work of the task force. But Adams, Reese's boss, says he submitted his own request for clearance several months ago and is still waiting to hear back.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman, at least, helped Adams out by clearly announcing his stance at council. Saltzman, you'll remember, was the first commissioner who wanted back in the JTTF last year, without caring much what civil-rights advocates thought. He still doesn't seem to care.
"I don't believe any member of council specifically endorsed" the ACLU's request, Saltzman said. "And I would object to all this information being available in a public report."
Good to know. Now let's hope Adams decides otherwise.