If there is a precedent for the kind of local domestic intelligence gathering envisioned by the Homeland Security Task Force, it is the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force program begun in 1979. The JTTF program allows local jurisdictions to create a team of municipal, state, and federal law enforcement agents to “investigate domestic and foreign terrorist groups and individuals for the purpose of detecting, preventing, and prosecuting their criminal activity!’ There are four JTTFs in Texas, one each in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso. All four maintain a low profile. The best-known JTTF may be the one in Portland, Oregon, which came to public attention somewhat fortuitously last year. A member of a police accountability group known as CopWatch noticed a mention of the FBI task force on the Portland city council’s “consent agenda” of items to be resolved without public debate or testimony. Portland CopWatch took an interest in the activities of the Portland JTTF, and turned up some troubling information. At that time, Portland was the base of operations of the Earth Liberation Front Press Office, a non-profit organization that handles media requests on behalf of an underground group known as the Earth Liberation Front. The ELF, a radical environmental organization that has taken credit for numerous attacks against buildings and machinery, notably a ski lodge in Vail in 1998, has been designated a terrorist organization by the FBI. The press office would seem to be a logical target for investigation by the Portland JTTF, but CopWatch’s research revealed otherwise. ELF Press Office spokesman Craig Rosebraugh has been repeatedly arrested and indicted over the last three years, but according to Dan Handleman of CopWatch, none of the federal agents involved in either the investigation or the arrests have any connection to the task force. Instead, Portland JTTF agents have mostly been involved with the monitoring of labor disputes and legal protests, Handelman said. All seven Portland Police officers on the task force are members of the Criminal Intelligence Unit or “red squad’ ,’ which has been frequently charged with maintaining files on the political affiliations of Portland activists. Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Handleman and his colleagues discovered, do not necessarily target confirmed terrorist groups, but focus instead on what they term “potential threat elements” or PTEs. PTEs, which are classified as left-wing, rightgroup or individual in which there are allegations or information indicating a possibility of the unlawful use of force or violence in furtherance of a specific motivation or goal, possibly political or social in nature!’ An actual history of criminal activity increases a PTE’s “point scale” in the threat assessment, but merely meeting the above definition, with its vague “allegations or information indicating a possibility” clause is sufficient to become a target of the task force. Armed with this information, CopWatch was able to successfully challenge the city’s re-authorization of the Portland JTTF on September 26th. As a coalition of 24 community groups, including five labor unions, lined up to testify against the task force, the city council decided, by a single vote, not to reauthorize the memorandum of understanding between the city and the FBI. In explaining his dissent, councilmember Charlie Hales observed that the memorandum “sounded like Nixon wrote it.” Citing the September 11th attacks, Hales said that “we have to fight terrorism, but this isn’t the way to do it!’ The Portland City Council met again on October 10th to discuss the issue, this time without hearing public testimony. The second time around, the reauthorization passed. Yet city officials remain wary of the intelligence business. On November 24, the Associated Press reported that Portland police have refused to assist the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing nationwide effort to interview recent Middle Eastern immigrants. The feds have asked local police forces to assist in locating and interviewing a list of 5,000 men, mostly Arabs or Muslims, who have entered the country since January 1, 2000. But such an undertaking would violate Oregon law, according to acting Police Chief Andrew Kirkland. “The law says, generally, we can interview people that we may suspect have committed a crime:’ Kirkland told the AP. “But the law does not allow us to go out and arbitrarily interview people whose only offense is immigration or citizenship, and it doesn’t give them authority to arbitrarily gather information on them:’ In any case, such interviews might constitute racial profiling, which is also illegal in Oregon, Kirkland said. -A.F. WHAT CAN GO WRONG? 75 Years, continued from page 5 issue of the tractor’s value, and have called upon a a total of six experts whose general opinion it is thatas Hampton tells it”This is John Deere Model H? 1941? Aw hell no, that thing wouldn’t be worth more than $700.” Members of such organizations as the Tractor and Gas Engine Club of Temple and the Texas Early Days Tractor and Gas Engines Association, they all judged the tractor to be worth between $150 and $300. Meanwhile, since having been elected District Attorney, Wenk has nearly doubled the number of new cases being introduced in Hays County. \(There were 936 new cases added in fiscal year 2000, as opposed to 528 in when, in the wake of the Columbine school shootings, he threatened to prosecute four 14-year-olds as adults if they didn’t plead guilty in juvenile court to plotting to attack their high school. In another case Hampton has defended, Wenk brought charges against an older couple for hindering apprehension, because they’d paid for a hotel room for their son, who was wanted on theft charges. Replying to faxed questions from the Observer, Wenk did not comment on specific cases. “During the course of my 20 years of public service as a State’s Attorney, I have been charged with the ‘duty and responsibility’ of protecting law-abiding citizens from those predatory criminals who prey on innocent citizens of my community,” he wrote. “We have traditionally not tried people or punished people for being criminals in general,” notes Lanford. “But now with all that extraneous foolishness… it makes for good politics.” Penny is trying to raise her three children on welfare. “I’m having a real hard time,” she says. As for her husband, “I don’t feel he was done right. He done his bad times back when he was a kid and got in trouble for it before. He’s as fit to be in society as I am or anyone else for that matter.” 12/7/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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