Privacy SOS

Portland, OR restricts JTTF operations

In April 2005, then-mayor Tom Potter withdrew Portland City police from participating in the local Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) with the FBI, citing public concerns about improper spying and other civil liberties issues, making it the first city in the nation to pull out of a JTTF agreement with the FBI.

One major reason the city stopped participating with the Task Force is that upon deputization, local cops who work for the FBI cease to be bound by local and state laws, and instead are governed by the often much more relaxed federal regulations on domestic intelligence gathering. Portland didn't feel comfortable participating in the Task Force knowing that its local police would be given the authority to do things that broke Portland or Oregon law, so they canceled the agreement with the FBI.

This month, after years of wrangling and federal pressure to rejoin the Task Force, as well as a high profile near bombing in Portland's city center last holiday season, the Portland police are set to rejoin the local JTTF. In an unusual twist, however, the city has written its own policy governing its JTTF membership, providing a fix to the problematic loophole of jurisdictional governing regulation. 

The Standard Operating Procedure, which took effect on July 22, 2011 and lasts one year, ensures that when the regulations conflict, Portland city police JTTF members will abide by Portland or Oregon law, and not FBI domestic investigations guidelines. This fix allows Portland officers to participate, but provides the residents of that city with assurances that their city cops won't participate in any conduct illegal under state or local law. (UPDATE: Read the latest on the Portland struggle here.)

In Massachusetts and in states throughout the nation, the FBI has JTTF agreements with local agencies that enable the local police to shirk local laws in favor of the much more relaxed FBI guidelines.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.