[pjw] REPORT BACK: Mock JTTF Council hearing leads to some answers at real meeting

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Wed Jan 29 17:18:20 EST 2020

PJW supporters:

(Sorry for duplication with the Copwatch list)

Below is a report back about the Joint Terrorism Task Force covering

a) our mock City Council hearing held Tuesday at noon (in the rain)


b) the _actual_ Council hearing that happened today, coincidentally at
about noon.

The community's fake Council hearing involved a table with nameplates
for the Council members and four empty chairs. I joked today that the
response we got from the empty chairs is about the same as we get in
real Council hearings.

People from seven organizations "testified" one by one for about 3
minutes each.

  Portland JACL
  350 PDX
  Peace and Justice Works/ Portland Copwatch
  League of Women Voters
  Portland Democratic Socialists of America
  Jewish Voice for Peace- Portland
  Portland's Resistance

Afterward two of us went into City Hall to deliver the written
testimonies we had to the four Commissioners' offices, the Council Clerk
and the City Attorney.

Media from five organizations were there. Three were corporate media:
Oregonian, KPTV and KATU. The others were from DSA (planning to edit
together two angles and post on social media) and  ACLU (which posted
photos on Drop Box here:


The Oregonian's story appeared within an hour of our event, helping us
get our points across:


On early evening news, KPTV and KATU ran stories which I have been told
were positive. The online version at KPTV-12 just has a still of a sign
and text of the story:


I can't find the KATU story on line.

In poking around yesterday to see if anyone had done other pre-coverage
I found that the Tribune ran this on Sunday:


and it was echoed on KOIN that day:


The City Council meeting to the Joint Terrorism Task Force report today
lasted less than half an hour (as allotted, but by only a few minutes)
and surprisingly included reference to the testimonies we handed in
yesterday (which officials referred to as "letters"). The Bureau
answered some of the questions we raised on those testimonies. Perhaps
equally as surprising, Commissioner Hardesty did not push to get the
answers to more basic questions around whether the activity listed in
the report about investigating people with no allegations of criminal
conduct might have violated Oregon law.

Commissioner Fritz, who attended on the phone, did not make a motion to
allow public testimony even though she emailed Portland Copwatch at 5:15
PM Tuesday indicating she would try. Fritz said the report gave the
level of transparency she had hoped for. Commissioner Eudaly simply
commented on the fact that the bulk majority of the people being
investigated were white, reflecting the true face of American terror.
Wheeler did not really add anything to the conversation, but indicated
that he had passed on our testimonies to the Chief to prompt the

Sgt. Pete Simpson of the Criminal Intelligence Unit addressed just four
points. One was that they didn't include more information about the 10
cases referred by the FBI to the PPB. He said those cases which have a
"local nexus" are send to the Police for review, whereupon they decide
whether there is a threat or crime involved-- he actually used the phrase
that they look for "indicators that there may be a crime." This sounds
like standard way below reasonable suspicion to me.

The second point was the lack of detail about the 12 cases the PPB sent
to the FBI. He stated they will look to expand that section in next
year's report based on the public feedback and comments from Council
members. Chief Resch added that they want to make sure they can be
accurate in reporting the outcomes so have to wait for the FBI to close
the cases.

With regard to the reported spying on Jordan Cove activists, Simpson
added words to the message officer Andrew Hearst reportedly told the
Coos County Sheriff's office. He said that the Sheriff had called the
PPB and asked them to let them know if people from Portland were coming
there to protest, and Simpson claims the response was that they would
let them know if people were going there with the intent of committing
criminal acts. (The "criminal acts" part was not reported by the
Guardian.) Again he talked about acts which "might occur," giving
blocking a highway as an example. Simpson said this had nothing to do
with the JTTF. (However, I believe one of the articles said the PPB was
training the South West Oregon Task Force based on JTTF training...)

The fourth point was about whether the PPB was coopering with ICE
through the JTTF, and he reiterated a point that has been made before.
The claim is that because the immigration group in the JTTF is Homeland
Security Investigations (HSI) they are not involved in ICE activity. Of
course, there is no way for us to affirm this.

Commissioner Hardesty asked about what happens when the PPB decides to
send a case to the FBI or vice versa. Essentially the answer is that the
Chief gets to decide whether there is a case that fits the JTTF
resolution before accepting or forwarding information. Hardesty asked
that the report be revised to be clear that the language saying no laws
prohibit the PPB from working with the JTTF state "in accordance with
the resolution." The Bureau agreed.

Hardesty then asked what a person should do to report a hate crime--
call the FBI or the PPB? Simpson said to call the police emergency or
non emergency number, then the case can be routed from there. He noted
that the Bias Crimes Unit is not part of the Criminal Intelligence Unit
so they would only be brought in if there was suspicion that the hate
crime was connected to a larger organization and not just
individualized. (I think that should be made clear in the resolution as

After the hearing and out in the hallway, I asked Sgt. Simpson why he
didn't address the key question in our testimonies-- whether the PPB was
potentially violating state law by conducting "assessments" with no
allegations of criminal conduct. I specifically asked about the three
cases where people were accused of holding white supremacist ideologies,
and as distasteful as that is, it is not a crime. Simpson said that if a
person feels threatened and the PPB can identify the person and give
them a call, they may be cutting off a person before they escalate to
action. I compared this scenario to the countless calls police keep
receiving from people who "feel threatened" when they see houseless
people in their neighborhoods, and essentially this is the same thing
except it takes discomfort and parlays it into suspected terrorism.
Simpson said the Bureau has a bright line between political views and
threats. I'd like to know what that bright line is, exactly.

In retrospect, I could also have asked what if a person said "there was
a man praying to Allah and it made me feel threatened?" Or what about
the case where Rep. Janelle Bynum, who is African American, was
canvasing in her district and someone called the police on her?

I think the hearing would have been better if the public had been able
to raise some of these questions at Council and gotten answers on the
record. Certainly the report is better than the flimsy ones we received
from 2011-2015, the last time the PPB was working with the JTTF on just
a case-by-case basis. But there is much to be desired.

Bottom line is we did very well to capture the lead on the discussion by
doing our mock Council hearing the day before the hearing, giving them
time to respond.

OPB, the Oregonian and the Mercury were at Council, the only story I
found so far is the Mercury's:


Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters composed a letter about the JTTF
with quotes from former FBI agent and current Brennan Center fellow
Michael German. That letter ran on the O's opinion page today:


Thanks to all involved in this ongoing struggle,

dan handelman
peace and justice works/ portland copwatch

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