PORTLAND -- Six years after former Mayor Tom Potter withdrew Portland, city leaders have approved a return to the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The agreement was crafted with language acceptable to both the U.S. Attorney for Oregon Dwight Holton and the American Civil Liberties Union. Those two groups don't always see eye to eye.
The compromise includes only using city police officers for terrorism investigations on an as-needed basis. And only if police can afford to lend the resources.
Much of the political change to return came after a stunning arrest last November of a suburban Washington County man, Mohamed Mohamud. In concert with undercover federal agents, he crafted a plot to blow up what he thought was a van of explosives parked at at Pioneer Square tree-lighting ceremony.
Background: Pioneer Square bomb plot
Though the city isn't fully rejoining the fed's anti-terror team, the U.S. Attorney said it's still a leap ahead.
"We think this is the best arrangement for right now, to make sure we're getting local officers local insights back into working in the fabric of the ," U.S. Attorney for Oregon Dwight Holton said. "We think that's great and it's a great step forward."
More: Statement by Holton on JTTF (PDF)
The ACLU signed onto the compromise and was hopeful safeguards will protect the privacy of innocent people.
Mayor Sam Adams said he and Police Chief Michael Reese expect to get security clearances that will allow them to supervise the officers who work with the task force.
When the city withdrew, the mayor at the time, Tom Potter, said the FBI wouldn't give him the clearances he needed to supervise his officers.
The FBI says there 106 terrorism task forces operating in the U.S., the bulk of them established after the attacks of 9/11.
Portland is the only major city to have withdrawn over a policy dispute. It did so amid suspicions about federal investigations and dismay at the mistaken arrest of Beaverton lawyer Brandon Mayfield in the 2004 Madrid train bombing.
Some members of the council said the council's action comes with enough restrictions on officer activity that it doesn't amount to rejoining the task force.
"It does not assign officers to the task force," said council member Randy Leonard.
Testimony at the council meeting was largely against the agreement, and came from a variety of ethnic and activist groups who said the FBI's history makes it untrustworthy.
Among those against it was Mayfield, who got an apology and $2 million from the federal government after he was arrested, erroneously, on the basis of a fingerprint linked to the deaths of 191 people in the Madrid bombing. The fingerprint wasn't his.
Despite the terms the city put on officers working with the task force, he said, there's still potential for officers to get involved early in cases when they shouldn't be, investigating legitimate political dissent.
"I'm still concerned that this resolution goes far but doesn't go far enough," he said.
In another case that contributed to the tension between the Justice Department and the city, Portland police refused a federal request for help in interviewing Middle Eastern immigrants as part of the investigation that followed the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The request was denied because Oregon law says police can't question people unless they are suspected of being involved in a crime.