Saturday, May 27, 2006

SHOOTING THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT. AGAIN

My apologies for the different type faces. I copied the information from three different windows and it didn't want to reformat in my word document. (sound of a raspberry)

 

We’ve had a minor disagreement between the City of Portland and the local office of the FBI. Personally, I think that if the FBI wants to know how the local government of the City of Portland works they should just go down to City Hall and ask. I obviously have a feeble grasp of how the Bureau does business, but I thought it best to present everything verbatim. I really love the Bureau press release though. Several paragraphs of absolutely nothing.  I hope no trees were sacrificed to put this turkey out. There is a description of a really great editorial cartoon at the end.

 

By WILLIAM McCALL
Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. - Mayor Tom Potter on Wednesday accused the FBI of using "big brother" tactics in his city by trying to recruit an informant inside the offices of City Hall.

The FBI said it "strongly disagrees on the significance of the incident described."

Dan Nielsen, the FBI's acting special agent in charge for Oregon, said an agent and a city employee "came across each other in day-to-day activities, Starbucks and they work out at the same gym.”

He said the agent made no secret about who he was, and when the city employee was "clearly uncomfortable about the situation," he told her she was free to report the contact."

"It wasn't the jackbooted thug coming in and putting on the klieg lights," Nielsen said.

Potter, a former police chief, has been at odds with the FBI before.

Last April, the mayor and other City Council members voted to remove Portland police from the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force because the FBI refused to give him the top-secret security clearance he said he needed for full oversight of the officers assigned to the task force.

In a letter posted Wednesday on the city's Web site, Potter said a city employee on May 11 was stopped by a special agent from the Portland FBI who asked whether she knew any of Portland's five City Council members.

According to Potter, the employee was asked "if she would be willing to pass information to him relating to people who work for the city of Portland. He said that while he had duties in other areas, the agency was always interested in information relating to white collar crime and other things."

Potter said the agency's actions smacked of "big brother," especially in light of recent news reports about some of the nation's biggest phone companies sharing millions of customer records with the National Security Agency.

Last November, the FBI opened a public corruption investigation into the Portland Police Bureau's handling of pawn and secondhand shops that sold stolen merchandise.

On Wednesday, Potter said that federal authorities have since told him they know of no public corruption in Portland and are not conducting an investigation of the city.

He said "there is no information to indicate any public corruption on the part of City Council members or employees," so "the FBI has no legitimate role in surreptitiously monitoring elected officials and city employees."

Nielsen, the FBI's acting special agent in charge for Portland, saidWednesday that he expects the agency to maintain good relations with the mayor and the city.

"It's normal there will be disagreements of opinion," Nielsen said. "I don't see it as downward spiral."

Associated Press Writer Julia Silverman contributed to this story.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

This is the open letter from Mayor Tom Potter to the city about the incident.

 

An Open Letter to the Portland Community:

 

On Thursday, May 11, 2006, a Special Agent of the Portland Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation stopped a City employee and showed her a badge and ID. He asked if she knew any City Council members. He asked if she would be willing to pass information to him relating to people who work for the City of Portland. He said that while he had duties in other areas, the agency was always interested in information relating to white collar crime and other things.

 

One important and legitimate role of the FBI is to investigate public corruption within government entities. For example, recently the FBI arrested a member of Congress for public corruption. But federal officials have told me they know of no public corruption in our city. Federal officials say they are conducting no investigation of the City of Portland.

 

The only conclusion I can draw is that the agent in question was trying to place an informant inside the offices of Portland's elected officials and employees, in order to inform on City Council and others.

 

The actions of the FBI – even if they are the actions of one agent acting on his own - come at an uneasy time for many Americans. In the past few weeks, we have learned that our phone records are not private, and conversations are monitored without warrants. Journalists exposing these actions have been threatened with prosecution.

 

Even if this incident is nothing more than the work of one overzealous agent, it represents an unacceptable mindset within the agency. When there is no information to indicate ANY public corruption on the part of City Council members or employees, the FBI has no legitimate role in surreptitiously monitoring elected officials and city employees.

 

As a city, we will continue to cooperate with the FBI on investigating criminal activities and terrorism, to ensure our community is as safe as possible.

 

But in the absence of any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, I believe the FBI’s recent actions smack of "Big Brother." Spying on local government without justification or cause is not acceptable to me. I hope it is not acceptable to you, either.

 

Thank you,

 

 

Tom Potter

Mayor

 

May 24, 2006

 

And this the statement from the FBI. If you’ll notice, the statement spends four fifths of the statement saying absolutely nothing.

 

This is a press release courtesy of the FBI's Portland Field Office

"The FBI has and will continue to have an open dialogue with Mayor Potter and other city officials concerning a variety of public safety issues that are important to the people of this city. Because of this open relationship, the mayor and the FBI have discussed, on several occasions, the issues raised in his letter. Although we strongly disagree on the significance of the incident described, we do welcome the opportunity to keep lines of communication open."

"The FBI is a part of the communities in which it works. To be effective, it relies on the assistance of those who also live and work in those communities. It is entirely proper for an FBI agent to ask willing citizens to provide information when those citizens feel it is appropriate to do so regarding potential criminal conduct – whether that information involves a bank robbery, kidnapping, public corruption or other crime."

"The vast majority of public officials – both elected and appointed – are honest in their work and committed to serving their fellow citizens. Saying that, we’ve seen cases around the country of those who abuse the public trust. The citizens served by the FBI expect – and should expect – the FBI to take reasonable, lawful steps to counter criminal behavior where and when it happens."

"In the last two years, FBI investigations have led to a 40% increase in the number of indictments of government employees involved in corruption. Many of our investigations start with a tip from someone who encounters corruption in the course of their work. The FBI cannot investigate corruption (or any crime) until it determines that that crime exists, and simply providing citizens with an avenue to provide that information is good police work."

"The FBI’s Portland Division has and will continue to abide by the Constitution as well as all federal laws, rules and regulations concerning the conduct of its investigations."

"The FBI will continue to work with the City of Portland, its elected officials and its employees to ensure the safety of the people we jointly serve."

 

A local cartoonist had a wonderful cartoon in the paper today. Too bad my scanner isn’t working. But, I’ll try to describe it.

 

Picture a three part card with DOMESTIC SPYING typed on it. There’s a little FBI guy with a spyglass examining a post note. On the left side of the entry are three dots labeled 1, 3, and 5. On the right are three dots and the numbers 2, 4, and 6. The message on the post it?

 

Dear FBI, See if you can connect the dots on this one.  Love, Tom Potter, Mayor, Portland, Oregon.

 

3 comments:

toonguykc said...

Is it all lost, J ?  Are we the only ones listening and reading and watching what's happening???  It would be so nice not to care.

But I still do.

For now.

XOXOXO,
Russ

tenyearnap said...

I read a book about 15 years ago that left an impression on me--it's about the FBI. Wish I hadn't given it away because I would love to have it now to send to you. Anyway, it is called Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret War Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. Authors are Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall.

lisaram1955 said...

I don't think the FBI statement says nothing.  I think it says, "Of course we tried to spy on the Portland City Council.  We had every right, and we will continue to do so."  Sure.  Let's sink the our intelligence manpower into this kind of stupid, nobody-cares investigation (of a primarily Democratic administration in a blue state.)  We can't find Osama bin Laden, so we might as well keep busy doing something.  Lisa  :-]