From: "Marylou <deleted
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2001 8:23 PM
Subject: Fw: Protection of Civil Rights
Thought you might like to read and forward where appropriate.
----- Original Message -----
From: Katz, Mayor <firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2001 4:32 PM
Subject: RE: Protection of Civil Rights
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, there has
been a lot of attention paid to the Portland Police Bureau's response to
a request by federal authorities to question 23 men of Middle Eastern
origin in our community.
Our response and our city have been characterized by some as
unpatriotic. Given the important battle against terrorism that our
country is engaged in, I would like to share some facts and background
information directly with you, whether you support or oppose the City's position.
We can aggressively fight terrorism and follow the law.
It is important to know that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has
said that the 23 men in question are not suspected of any crime. Nor is
there any indication that they were in any way involved in the terrorist
acts of September 11th. It is essential to understand this fact in order
to understand the City Attorney's interpretation of Oregon law in this
You may be interested to know that, according to media reports,
other cities across the country, including Seattle, San Francisco, San
Jose, San Mateo County, Denver and Detroit, also have declined to participate
in the interviews.
Two state laws guide our response to the Ashcroft request.
The first, ORS 181.575, enacted in 1981, makes it unlawful for our
police to "collect or maintain information about the political,
religious, or social views, associations, and activities of any individual...unless
such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal
activities, and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of
the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct."
The second law, ORS 181.850, enacted in 1987, makes it unlawful for
police to "use agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the purpose of
detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation of law is that
they are persons of foreign citizenship residing in the United States in
violation of federal immigration laws.
Said more simply, we can question any individual about any matter
related to the September 11th attacks. However, we cannot question
innocent people about, or keep a file on, personal information not related to
those attacks or other criminal actions. Nor can we question people solely to
ascertain whether they are complying with federal immigration laws.
There is disagreement among lawyers on this issue. In the opinions
given by Oregon's Attorney General and our local district attorney, the
suggested areas of questioning are acceptable. Our City Attorney and the
attorney for the Oregon legislature both concluded that some of the
specific questions go over the legal line. According to Willamette Week (December
5, 2001), they have been joined by six former U.S. Department of Justice
officials and many legal scholars who have said that the federal request
raises legal issues. Willamette Week states that Art Lafrance of the
Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College said that the city
made the right call. "The statute would not allow them to undertake the kind
of questioning the attorney general wants," he says.
Margie Paris, an associate professor at University of Oregon's law
school, told the newspaper that she found the Portland City Attorney's
interpretation "pretty much unassailable."
We asked the U.S. Attorney if he would be willing to retool five of
the 33 questions we had legal problems with. He declined and said that
all the questions had to be asked as they were presented. Thus, we are
unable to participate in the 23 local interviews. This decision does not affect
any of our other law enforcement efforts. The interviews are being done by
federal agents and are almost completed.
According to Oregon law, local law enforcement agencies must rely on
the legal advice given to them by their attorneys. That is why the
Portland Police Bureau is following the advice of the Portland City Attorney. We
believe that the City Attorney's expertise on this issue is unmatched. I
have enclosed a statement from our City Attorney on his decision.
Portland was one of the first to sign up in the war on terrorism. In
1997, well before the September 11th attacks, we joined with the FBI and
other law enforcement agencies to create the Portland Joint Terrorism
Task Force. There are eight police bureau members assigned to work on the
Task Force full time.
In response to vigorous citizen debate, I made a solemn commitment
that our police would strictly follow the letter of the state law. Today
we are one of only 36 cities in the country to have such a local terrorism
U.S. Attorney Mike Mosman told Willamette Week in the December 5
article, "I understand that there is a need [for the media] to create
tension to have a story, but in this case that tension is nonexistent.
Unfortunately, what came of it is the false impression outside of
Portland that we have a city and mayor and police chief who aren't committed to
doing their part to combat terrorism. That just isn't true."
I was honored to lead nearly 1,000 Oregonians to New York City just
weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center. Our lives were
forever changed by the destruction, and by the sadness and sense of violation
that we shared with the people who experienced that direct attack on America.
In our fight against terrorism we must do so as a nation under law.
Especially in times like now when we are under attack by terrorists, it
is important not to lose sight of the personal freedoms that makes us a
beacon of liberty for the world.
President Bush has called on all of us to join him in the war
against terrorism. In response to that call, and to recent anthrax
exposures across the country, I have convened regular meetings to discuss regional
preparedness and response to potential biological and chemical terrorist
threats to this region.
Portland police officers and other staff have logged hundreds of
hours of overtime since September 11th, investigating leads and
suspects, responding to bomb and "powdery substance" threats, and working to calm
a panicked public.
Last month, when we were alerted of a credible threat to West Coast
bridges, we quickly mobilized to protect Portland's ten bridges,
inspecting them, monitoring them 24-hours a day with police surveillance by land,
air, and water.
Portland has actively joined the President and the rest of the
country during this time of national crisis. Police Chief Mark Kroeker
and I are fully committed to continue working closely with all local, state,
and federal officials in our country's effort to prevent and combat
terrorism. We are also committed to obeying the laws of our state. We can and will
do both, because only in that way can we protect our nation, and preserve
that which makes it worth protecting.
With warm regards,
PS: You may read letters I have received by visiting my website at
STATEMENT OF CITY ATTORNEY JEFF ROGERS
The U.S. Department of Justice has asked local law enforcement offices
to interview 23 people in Portland. The U.S. Deputy Attorney General has
assured us in writing that "the persons to be interviewed are not
suspected of involvement in criminal activity." The reason for the interviews is
to find out if these people might have any information that would aid in
the fight against terrorism, even though the people being interviewed are
not suspects. That is perfectly appropriate and federal law agents are
presently interviewing the 23 people.
There is no legal problem with asking these people - or anyone else -
for any information whatsoever that they might have about past or future
terrorism or terrorists or associates or supporters of terrorists.
Police officers may always ask any witness or potential witness - no matter how
innocent they are - about crime or anything that might lead to
preventing or combating crime.
However, there is an Oregon law that prevents Portland police from
gathering certain personal information about innocent witnesses themselves. ORS
181.575 prohibits city police from collecting or maintaining
"information about the political, religious, or social views, associations or
activities of any individual ...unless there are reasonable grounds to suspect the
subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct."
Because there is no reason to believe these 23 people are or may be
involved in crime, the law prohibits the Portland police from asking these people
certain personal questions that are unrelated to crime.
Although most of the questions to be asked are fully legal because they
seek information about terrorism, the Portland Police have also been
requested to ask these people a small number of questions about their own studies,
activities, and future plans. The police have been requested to ask them
about their past travel in the United States and elsewhere, their
reasons for it, and their future travel plans, including what cities and
landmarks they plan to visit. These questions as written, and the likely follow-up
questions, would violate ORS 181.575.
The police are also supposed to ask about the visas and passports of the
people being interviewed and, if they don't have a passport, why not.
This last question likely violates another Oregon statute, ORS 181.850, which
prohibits local police from enforcing immigration laws.
It does not matter whether the interviews are voluntary or not. ORS
181.575 prevents Portland police from creating files containing this kind of
information about people no matter how the information was obtained.
The Oregon Attorney General has also expressed an opinion about the
issue. A press release accompanying his opinion summarizes the statutes by
saying, "the law prohibits the collection and retention of data about a person's
associations and activities unless the person to whom the data relates
is suspected of a crime."
Although he came to a different conclusion than our office about the
questions to be asked, he states in his opinion that he "is not
authorized by Oregon law to provide legal advice to local law enforcement
agencies....the decision about legal advice given to local law
enforcement agencies rests entirely with attorneys for those agencies."
Portland has had extensive experience with the statutes discussed above,
including being sued three times, and being under a court order to
ensure that Portland Police comply with the law. Although legislatures can
change laws in times of crisis, so long as the law exists the City must follow
Our office's job is to give our best, objective analysis of the law. In
turn, police officers are sworn to follow laws as they are written.
In our legal analysis we have had to accept the assurance of the Deputy
Attorney General that these people are not suspected of any involvement
in terrorism. Some people may mistakenly assume that if the federal
government wants to interview these people, they must somehow be suspected of being
associated with terrorism. But we have been told that they are not.
If these individuals were suspects, the FBI and the Portland Police
would be interviewing them as part of their continuing efforts together on the
Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force. However, since these 23 people are
not suspects, ORS 181.575 applies. The law does not allow Oregon law
enforcement to say these people are not suspects, but create files about them as if
When we realized that Portland police could not ask some of the
questions, we tried to work with the federal authorities to modify the illegal
questions by focusing them on terrorism rather than on general
information about the activities and associations of the people being interviewed.
The federal authorities were unable to do so. Instead they decided that
federal law enforcement officers would conduct the interviews.
Federal officers are not restricted by the Oregon statutes because they
are not Oregon law enforcement agents.
Several years ago, the Portland Police began working closely with the
FBI on the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force to prevent and combat terrorism.
Our office has legally approved that partnership. Although, in the present
situation, Portland police are not lawfully able to do this one small
piece of interviewing, the City and the federal authorities continue to work
vigorously together to fight terrorism. The federal authorities have
repeatedly expressed their appreciation for Portland's anti-terrorism
efforts, which are the most extensive of any city in the state.
From: Marylou <deleted
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2001 1:42 PM
Subject: Protection of Civil Rights
Would like to applaud your city's courageous decision not to trample on
the civil rights of innocent people. Your police chief should be commended.
I only wish our city were so proactive.
Mary Lou <deleted