Last weeks hearing on rejoining a federal ant-terrorism task force.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz was perfectly clear last week when explaining her vote against Portland's reunion with a federal anti-terrorism task force, unpersuaded by the promised gains in safety and lamenting an inevitable diminishing of community trust once we send two of our cops over to work with the FBI on a full-time basis.

"We had an opportunity to create more confidence within the community. I don't believe with this action we are doing that," she said during that hearing.

Of course, she was railing against what was already a foregone conclusion. Mayor Charlie Hales, a potential swing vote along with Commissioner Steve Novick, had led off the afternoon's proceedings with a long and earnest explanation of why he'd decided to be the third vote in favor of rejoining the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

And so it was again when the council met yesterday to make things official, signing—without amendments, which the FBI had told the city it wouldn't even consider—a memorandum of understanding essentially serving as Portland's contract with the feds. Hales hadn't changed his mind. And neither had Commissioners Nick Fish or Dan Saltzman.

This time, though, Fritz really let go, reading from prepared remarks that crystallized some of the best arguments against joining the JTTF again.

The word “security” is an easy concept to stand behind because then you can justify just about anything, surveillance, tracking citizens, profiling them, collecting data on them, keeping that data forever as an indictment of criminal intent whether it was, or not and arresting people for no other crime than for being poor or simply peacefully expressing their dissatisfaction with government policies.

We have become a society that uses the same techniques on its citizens that we rail against in other countries. Every single one of us is subject to the power of fear in a mortal world. This includes FBI agents, mothers, fathers, police, corporate CEOs, corporate CEOs' husbands and wives…. You and me and so on.

While it is assumed that all parties to these investigations are operating in the best interests of the citizens of the U.S., there are numerous examples nationally of stings, setups, surveillance, profiling, arrests for civil protest, manipulation and intimidation of and by the media, and arrests for simply researching and disseminating information about public policy, …… that makes this often a messy affair and one where public trust continues to be eroded.

Fritz has since linked to a copy of her speech on her blog, after requests from myself and some other community members. I've copied the whole thing below. (The printed version's slightly different from the one she read aloud, with some minor ad-libs). It's worth a couple of minutes of your morning to read it over.

I have here an article posted on the American Civil Liberties (ACLU)’s Human Rights Watch web site, entitled “US: Surveillance Harming Journalism, Law, Democracy”

The report is 121 pages long. I considered reading it into the record today, but decided to refrain. I ask you to keep that in mind as I make this other statement, which is long but not 121 pages.
The FBI’s definition of a Terrorist is a person or organization that is known to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion”.

• This could be applied in many ways …to citizens who peacefully express their objection to government policies, by Corporations through their lobbyists, by Wall Street through its engineered defaults and domestic law enforcement agencies through their own interpretations of what is a public right.

• The FBI interprets terrorist in the broadest manner and that is “a presumption that an individual may commit a crime”. All of us could be put into that category at one time or another, and not even know it.

I have been told that I do not have the right to make amendments to this agreement, which defeats the purpose of the Council considering the MOU on our Agenda. So while I am unable to propose changes sought by the ACLU, I will read the problems identified in their letter into the record.
[See paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 in letter posted here]

• The fact is, the MOU is a template used by the FBI for all jurisdictions wishing to enter the JTTF and that it cannot be changed.

• This of course was part of the problem with the previous negotiations with the FBI where we tried to craft an agreement at that time that would be representative of our collective community values of free expression and information sharing.

• With that agreement I hoped we would have some ability to observe and interact with the FBI in a way that was more transparent and knowledgeable for Council, the Mayor and the Chief of Police and more constructive for the community.

• We attempted to get annual reporting, we attempted to get secret clearance for the Mayor and we attempted to have more control over our officers and their allegiance to the City and State laws. We failed on at least two of these three goals.

• It could be said

* that the Mayor will get reporting from the FBI at least what they want to share, and

* that there is no need for top secret clearance because we trust those involved to be upholding the “law” and

* that our officers will uphold state law even though they are under the direct supervision of the FBI,

• We find now and probably already knew that good transparent communication is just not what the FBI does. And even our own Police are put in the position of NOT communicating everything to us because it ostensibly jeopardizes our “security”.

The word “security” is an easy concept to stand behind because then you can justify just about anything, surveillance, tracking citizens, profiling them, collecting data on them, keeping that data forever as an indictment of criminal intent whether it was, or not and arresting people for no other crime than for being poor or simply peacefully expressing their dissatisfaction with government policies.

We have become a society that uses the same techniques on its citizens that we rail against in other countries. Every single one of us is subject to the power of fear in a mortal world. This includes FBI agents, mothers, fathers, police, corporate CEO’s, corporate CEO’s husbands and wives…. You and me and so on.

While it is assumed that all parties to these investigations are operating in the best interests of the citizens of the U.S., there are numerous examples nationally of stings, setups, surveillance, profiling, arrests for civil protest, manipulation and intimidation of and by the media, and arrests for simply researching and disseminating information about public policy, …… that makes this often a messy affair and one where public trust continues to be eroded.

If there was a perfect world where people had what they need that there wasn’t such a massive difference between those who believe they have the right to laud their wealth over the 99%, where gun production and use was not so prevalent for the accumulation of that wealth and the proliferation of that fear, then we probably would not be in this situation where we as human beings often cannot communicate with each other about our collective needs and that we must turn against our neighbors our citizens, to “fight” each other. The meaning of the word fight is indicative of our problem… it means—to struggle, to keep in check, to control, to stifle, to confront, to combat, to quarrel with, to argue with, all of which keep us further and further from peaceful constructive solutions, and each side digs in.

When it comes to the actual reality of terrorists, secrecy may be needed to stop a violent crime in our community. I understand there are some bad people out there and to catch them we must be smarter than them which includes some level of secrecy. Unfortunately we all get caught in the wake of that deception and fear. But the City of Boston’s participation in the JTTF did not prevent the Boston Marathon bombing.

We should acknowledge the advice of our own duly appointed Portland Human Rights Commission, who said,

“Federal Guidelines Governing FBI Operations expanded to grant greater permissions and flexibility to the FBI for surveillance and investigation activities. The “new guidelines have loosened previous restrictions, allowing greater agency discretion and permitting intrusions that erode civil liberties in the interest of protecting national security.…. The absence of oversight, accountability, and transparency inherent with a JTTF collaboration will exasperate longstanding tensions stemming from racial profiling, use of force, and negative perceptions about Portland’s police.”

With the passage of this MOU, we officially enter the world where information is purposely hidden from public view, and the City of Portland agrees to be complicit with that deception.

I believe that gaining the public trust first starts here at home.

As evidenced by the need for the DOJ agreement, we have a long ways to go to gain that trust. With approval of this agreement, we are taking a step back from any progress made.

As I said at the hearing, when the IRA was terrorizing England with bombs and attacks in pubs and hotels, we pulled together, we united as communities, we worked for greater trust. The biggest threat we have is lack of trust in our police. I cannot condone this approach and therefore I respectfully vote NO.