Members of Portland's City Council unanimously approved a deal Thursday which will allow the city's police force to rejoin the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
And just in time. Portland police will be able to attend FBI briefings regarding threats in light of the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces Sunday, the Oregonian reports.
Portland is paying "close attention" to potential threats, said Dwight Holton, U.S. Attorney for Oregon. "I reached out to the (Portland police) chief right away because (Portland) is part of the team," he said. "It's helpful to have them back at it with us."
"This is the kind of time when having more local eyes and ears is especially important," said Holton.
In 2005, Portland became the first city to withdraw from the task force after the arrest of Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid bombings. The FBI later released Mayfield and apologized for erroneously linking him to the attack.
The city reconsidered its decision last November, after the FBI arrested a Somali teenager who attempted to detonate a bomb during Portland's Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The bomb, provided by the FBI, was inert. Mohamed Osman Mohamud picked the ceremony as his target, according to a government indictment.
Portland police were only notified of the operation right before it occurred, when the FBI consulted them about the logistics of the sting operation. Mayor Sam Adams didn't know about the plot until after the arrest.
Police Chief Michael Reese acknowledged that, "the 2005 resolution, while well intentioned, wasn't meeting the needs of collaboration between local and federal law enforcement." "You're going to be an afterthought, like we were in that investigation," he said referring to the tree-lighting bomb plot.
Those opposed to Portland rejoining the task force say that JTTF operations, which allow federal officials to begin investigating without evidence of a crime, violate Oregon law which protects individuals' First Amendment rights.
As part of the new agreement, however, police officers must abide by Oregon law "in situations where the statutory or common law of Oregon is more restrictive of law enforcement than comparable federal law."
Officers may only be placed on cases which involve identified crimes and the city's chief of police, not the FBI, has the final say regarding which cases to which officers will be assigned.
"We've tried to strike a balance," said Adams. "We reject the false choice, that we can only protect civil liberties and civil rights or we can only prevent terrorism. We can do both."