[sixties-l] Police role in terror task force criticized

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/11/00

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    Police role in terror task force criticized
    Critics fear Portland's agreement with the FBI will blur lines and permit 
    the infiltration of lawful political protests
    Wednesday, December 6, 2000
    By Mark Larabee of The Oregonian staff
    A new task force on domestic terrorism that includes Portland police 
    officers and FBI agents follows a national trend to combat terrorism on 
    U.S. soil.
    But some think the wording of an agreement between the city and the FBI is 
    merely window dressing for a newly formed "Red Squad" to infiltrate lawful 
    political protests and their organizers.
    The FBI's budget and number of counter-terrorism agents have jumped 
    significantly each year since 1993, when a bomb blast rocked New York's 
    World Trade Center and the nation's psyche.
    The government's resolve to battle such violence hardened two years later 
    when a bomb planted inside a yellow rental truck ripped apart the federal 
    office building in Oklahoma City, killing 168.
    Portland's task force was formed specifically to investigate crimes by 
    extremist groups. An agreement between the FBI and the city names the Earth 
    Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, militant environmental 
    groups that have claimed responsibility for crimes.
    "It's Big Brother keeping his spying eyes on people," said Spencer Neal, a 
    Portland civil rights lawyer who has filed numerous lawsuits against the 
    city and police. "I think they're going to have a problem."
    Some activists are calling on the City Council to reconsider its approval 
    of the agreement, or at a minimum, hold a hearing in which their opinions 
    can be fully aired. Several have signed up to be heard at today's City 
    Council meeting.
                     Growing trend
    It's not just front-page incidents such as the Oklahoma City and the World 
    Trade Center bombs that have the feds concerned. Smaller scale threats, 
    from razor-blade letters to scares of widespread releases of toxic germs, 
    are becoming more common.
    The official response has been preparedness. More than 30 cities across the 
    country have formed antiterrorism task forces that include federal agents 
    and local police. Seattle formed one in September to thwart such things as 
    white supremacist violence.
    The FBI also has teamed with police departments to battle cyber terrorists 
    who could hack into computer systems to do such things as shut down the 
    nation's power grid or collide two airliners.
    The FBI budget was $3 billion last year, up from $2.1 billion in 1994. Much 
    of that increase is attributed to the agency's counter-terrorism efforts.
    Other federal agencies are also preparing. The federal Centers for Disease 
    Control and Prevention has a $155 million annual bio-terrorism research 
    program with 100 full-time employees, according to a September report by 
    Newhouse News Service. The CDC is stockpiling drugs in case of large-scale 
    exposures to such things as anthrax and smallpox.
                     Extremist activity on the rise
    Given that, the local task forces make perfect sense to the FBI.
    In Portland, the agency and police came together in 1998 to investigate any 
    crimes that might have come out of the Nike World Games.
    "We've seen all around the country a rise in the level of criminal activity 
    on behalf of these extremist protest groups," said FBI Special Agent Kevin 
    Favreau, who supervises Portland's domestic terrorism program.
    He said the FBI has the money to supply office space and equipment, such as 
    computers, as well as crime analysis. The 12 federal agents, eight Portland 
    police officers and three other state law enforcement officers on the task 
    force will investigate crimes of intimidation, from arson to
    "If we turn a deaf ear to those things as they start happening, then we 
    leave ourselves open to them getting worse," Favreau said.
    But some say having the police gathering intelligence on extremist groups 
    presents difficult choices for a nation that values civil liberties. They 
    caution that the potential to cross the line is far too easy.
    "The FBI has a long history of spying on political groups," said Portland 
    attorney Alan Graf of the National Lawyers Guild. "They're identifying 
    people based on political ideology and association with certain groups."
    Attorney Neal is suing the city in federal court on behalf of Robert E. 
    Challis, a member of the Brother Speed Motorcycle Club, who alleges the 
    police have collected information about him that is unrelated to any crime.
    Neal cited a state statute that prohibits police from collecting 
    information about political, religious or social groups unless it directly 
    relates to criminal activity.
    In 1996, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Michael Marcus upheld the law, 
    ordering the Portland police to purge its files of some criminal 
    intelligence reports. He said a person's or group's mere presence at an 
    event where criminal behavior is planned or conducted is not enough to 
    allow police to start an intelligence file.
    Graf thinks the task force approach would be too invasive and their written 
    directive is too broad. Under the city's agreement with the FBI, an 
    investigation is triggered by "criminal activity," which Graf said could be 
    interpreted to mean such things as jaywalking.
    "I'm all for the FBI and the police stopping violent acts," Graf said. But 
    he said the language should be exact, allowing an investigation only in 
    cases where there is "a pattern of violence against people and property."
    Favreau cited the latest federal Department of Justice guidelines that 
    require special care in sorting out criminal activity from those that are 
    "This is not for the purpose of being anti-civil rights, trying to go out 
    and find out about people who are protesting, and it never will be," 
    Favreau said of the task force. "We don't have time to be investigating 
    thoughts and protests."
    You can reach Mark Larabee at 503-294-7664 or by e-mail
    at marklarabee@news.oregonian.com

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