PORTLAND - The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Portland needs to be a team player If it wants to collaborate with federal agents against terrorism.
The two sides have hit a stalemate over one part of a new deal offered by Mayor Sam Adams.
Ever since the terror plot was revealed in late December during a dramatic arrest at Pioneer Courthouse Square's holiday tree-lighting ceremony, Portland city leaders have been reconsidering the city's six-year absence from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The mayor said he's ready to let the Portland Police Department rejoin that team under certain conditions.
This is an offer of resources, he said. Adams wants to commit up to five officers to the task force on an as-needed basis. It's an offer that comes with many strings attached.
The Justice Department said it has bent backwards on each compromise because we'd love to have the Portland police back on the team, said US Attorney for Oregon, Dwight Holton.
But Holton said there was one compromise he and the FBI cannot make. He cannot allow Portland police to decide where and how they'll participate in certain parts of certain investigations. That's how he interpreted one clause of Adams's proposed agreement.
That just doesn't work for us. It's a lot like a soccer player coming to a coach and saying, 'coach, I want to play but I'm only going to play in this position and I'm only going to play for this part of the game and I need this much playing time.' And we just can't do that. It's not the way this works, said Holton.
Specifically, Adams doesn't want Portland officers engaging in what's called the assessment -or early- part of an FBI terrorism investigation. He's concerned that work would come into conflict with Oregon's strict civil rights laws, especially if it involves surveillance of, or contact with, innocent people performing non-criminal acts.
Adams said city cops may talk to innocent people as part of their daily community policing efforts, but the difference is, this is a federal crime. Terrorism, the tools for law enforcement and investigations of terrorism, are expansive and our concern is that even with the best of intentions, doing the assessment work without that criminal predicate will run afoul of state law which is more restrictive, in many ways, than federal law.
Holton said federal agents don't perform surveillance on innocent people for non-criminal activities. So city cops wouldn't have to do so, either, if they participated on the task force.
Both sides were hoping there would be wiggle room on this one sticking point as the proposal heads to a Portland City Council meeting scheduled for April 28th.