Mayor Sam Adams this morning finally unveiled his plan (PDF) for how Portland should re-engage with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, a question that city and federal officials have spent months discussing in the wake of the Pioneer Courthouse Square bomb plot last November.

So is he putting us back in? Or are we still out, like we've been since 2005? The answer, after reading the mayor's proposed resolution, is neither. Instead, he's decided to make the city's current relationship with the JTTF more formal—but with several Portland-unique protections intended to balance concerns over civil liberties violations and cast as wide a net of community and council support as possible.

Portland cops would play a more prominent in the task force, but still only help out on investigations as needed. Adams says they would not participate in the early stages of federal investigations—called "assessments"—because those probes skirt constitutional bounds and require less evidence of criminal behavior than Oregon's stronger civil right laws. Any cop(s) working for the JTTF would be joined by a supervisor.

And, in a nod to accountability advocates, the city attorney and mayor would also be briefed periodically, and in any instance when Portland cops believe they've been asked to violate state law. The city attorney would receive clearance when needed to discuss violations and dispense advice.

"I want to get everyone out of this 'in and out' mentality," Adams said, speaking to reporters outside his office this morning, explaining that the feds can accept all or part of his proposal. "Even if they take us up in part, we'll be more safe, much safer."

A hearing was set in council this morning for 2 pm Thursday, April 28, although a final vote may wait. The Mercury reported last week that an announcement was imminent. Although it's unclear what Adams has changed in his plan since I learned he had support from the feds and two of his fellow commissioners. Adams reportedly kept working to line up support from skeptical commissioners Randy Leonard and Amanda Fritz, and those changes could cost federal support on some counts.

Update 10:56 AM: The Oregonian has reported that U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton won't support Adams' plan to keep officers out of "assessments"—an offering designed to win favor from the ACLU.

Update 12:10 PM:
I spoke with Adams during a brief break in city council this morning, and asked him if there's wiggle room over the "assessment" issue. "I've heard all the arguments," he told me—not a good indication he'd consider softening that provision—and he reiterated that the feds can take him on all or part of his offer. There's also the chance that sticking to that provision—the linchpin to safeguarding civil rights—will cost him council support he'd previously locked up.

The question was first raised by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who as of last week reportedly favored the direction of the mayor's plan. Saltzman, however, wanted an immediate vote last fall, and Adams rebuffed him in favor of a lengthy study process, including a town hall and a handful of public hearings.

Since February, the discussions on the JTTF have moved behind closed doors, with talks reaching as far as the FBI director's office, and with only occasional nuggets dropping from more loquacious commissioners and observers.

But has the mayor done his part to protect Oregon's civil liberties? Read the document. Will he cave to the feds?

In some ways, little has changed from the status quo that governed the city's relationship with the JTTF after it withdrew its officers from serving on a full-time basis in 2005. Our police officers and chief, just as they did in November during the Pioneer Square plot, will continue to be called upon to help the FBI when cases are hot enough to warrant it.

In other ways, some of the changes put forth by Adams actually might improve how that as-needed relationship works. Local oversight and deference to Oregon laws is enshrined, and expanded upon, in the new proposal. The city attorney, for the first time, is looped in. Regular annual reports—and public hearings—would be scheduled. The promise is that Portland cops can avoid unsavory chores like spying on activists or profiling religious and ethnic minorities.

Of course, the possibility for abuse isn't vanquished. If no one actually reports any violations, or if those claims are silenced by security clearance, we'll never know about them, and all the oversight and communication in the world, let alone what's in the mayor's proposal, won't matter.

With an election bearing down, however, there was no other choice for the mayor. Some will say this leaves us too weak and others will argue we've reopened the door to profiling. But the mayor can turn to the middle and credibly claim he's tried to balance both concerns. Politically, this is a victory he can take into 2012.