8/19/2005

"Report on Terrorism and Task Forces 1/11/01"

John Parachini, Director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, stated in a lengthy report issued July 26, 2000, in which he analyzed counterterrorism measures in the U.S., that the spending has been vast but not smart.8 He claimed that the huge amount of money is not based on actual need or threat but on vulnerabilities and worst case scenarios.9 And yet many federal agencies and commissions including the FBI regularly ask for more federal funding claiming that terrorism is an increasing threat, despite evidence to the contrary. For instance, according to Parachini's study, most of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) cases the FBI investigated in recent years were anthrax hoaxes.10

Louis Freeh, the Director of the FBI, stated in 1999, "We are fortunate that in the nearly six years since the World Trade Center bombing, no significant act of foreign-directed terrorism has occurred on American soil."11

According to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, there were 51 terrorist incidents in 1982, 2 incidents in 1997, 3 in 1996, 1 in 1995 and 0 in 1994.12 And yet the Clinton administration is requesting $9.3 billion for fiscal year 2001 to combat terrorism.13 Also in May of this year, President Clinton approved $300 million to expand counterterrorism programs, which will also enable the amount of state and local Joint Terrorism Task Forces to increase from 26 to 37.14 According to Janet Reno, the Attorney General (AG), the FBI has established Joint Terrorism Task Forces in several major cities composed of state and local officials, in addition to local representatives from the FBI AND other federal agencies such as the BATF, the Secret Service, the INS and the Custom Service. All members hold security clearances to share information and investigate terrorist activities.15 According to Reno, the FBI has the authority to establish such task forces because it is the lead agency for responding to acts of domestic terrorism. The creation of the task forces is part of a "comprehensive approach to all states which will help prevent, deter, and respond to terrorist threats by collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence broadly and consistent with security concerns."16

According to Louis Freeh, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces also include members of other federal agencies such as the CIA, the State Department, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Postal Inspection Service and the IRS. Freeh recently stated that "The 5-Year Interagency Counterterrorism and Technology Crime Plan supports further expansion of FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces where warranted by assessments of activity." (emphasis added) 17

What kind of terrorist activity triggered the formation of such a task force here in Portland? One of the Portland FBI agents mentioned the "torching" of police cars sitting in a parking lot this summer and that there had been half a dozen terrorist type incidents in the area.

In October 1996, members of a terrorist group known as the Phineas Priests who are affiliated with the Christian Identity Church famous for its opposition to, among many things, mixed-raced couples and abortion, were arrested in Portland by the FBI for attempted bank robbery. Prior to arrest, the Priests used diversionary tactics such as pipe bombings at locations close to targeted banks in Spokane, leaving letters behind expressing their extreme religious beliefs, which support acts of violence.18

According to a report by SBC Com Online in March 1998, the Portland Metro area police received terrorism training involving a, "Soldier and Biological Chemical Command" training course per Public Law 104-201. The training was provided by the FBI, FEMA, DOE, EPA, DHH and the Department Of Defense, further blurring the line between the police, federal law enforcement and the military.

In the spring of 2000, the U.S. Justice Department sent out assessment application forms to all fifty states. Local jurisdictions, (including Portland most likely), were instructed to fill the forms out in order to assess the local terrorist threat, assess vulnerable targets such as government structures and public utilities, and compare the threats and targets to the jurisdiction's current counterterrorism and antiterrorism resources such as those needed by first responders (emergency medical units, fire departments, police, etc.) This process helps to decide how to divide up the multimillion dollar DOJ grant money among states and local jurisdictions, and is also part of a domestic preparedness program by the DOJ which will reach 120 major cities in the U.S.

The terrorist threat assessment section was prepared by the FBI and is interested in only terrorism involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). According to the form, WMD include conventional weapons such as bombs and incendiary gases as long as they have the ability to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people.24 The following language is on the assessment form: "If your jurisdiction is a member of a FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force or a Joint Terrorism Working Group, this would be the appropriate venue for the assessment process, especially in light of the pre-clearance to review sensitive information and the FBI's participation in each group."25 The local jurisdictions are not supposed to identify the Potential Threat Element's (PTE) on the assessment form; however, they can keep the information in their files for reference.26

According to the tool kit instructions, Domestic Terrorism has the following definition:

The unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico, without foreign direction, and whose acts are directed at elements of the U.S. Government or its population, in the furtherance of political or social goals.27

The police in local jurisdictions are instructed by the form to identify no more than 15 PTE's which are defined as:

Any group or individual in which there are allegations or information indicating a possibility of the unlawful use of force or violence, specifically the utilization of a Weapon of Mass Destruction, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of a specific motivation or goal, possibly political or social in nature.

The following is added after the above definition: "Note: This definition provides sufficient predicate for the FBI to initiate an investigation."28

Each PTE is to be given a threat factor which ranges from 1 to 10 for each of the following categories:

Existence - (If the PTE exists it gets 1 point.) The form defines "existence as follows: "The presence of a group or individual, operating within the jurisdiction in which there are allegations or information indicating a possibility of the unlawful use of force or violence, specifically the utilization of a WMD, against persons or property, to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of a specific motivation or goal, possibly political or social in nature.
History - (If the PTE has a history of terrorist activities it gets 1 point)
Intentions - (If the PTE has terrorist intentions, it gets 2 points)
Capability - (If the PTE is capable of terrorism acts using WMD, this includes merely an ability to acquire, store and deliver WMD), it gets 2 points)
Targeting - (If the PTE has picked certain targets for acts of WMD terrorism, it gets 4 points)29

Such concentration on WMD terrorism by the Justice Department is interesting if you consider studies such as the one by John Parachini, mentioned above, in which he reports that unconventional weapons such as chemical and biological agents (included in WMD definition) are an unlikely choice by terrorists, based on research about terrorist acts.30

The primary duty of a Joint Terrorism Task Force is the investigation of terrorist activity. Here in Portland, the ordinances recently passed unanimously by City Council indicate that the task force must follow Oregon statutes for the collection of information on individuals and groups if in certain situations the statutes are more restrictive than the FBI guidelines.31 Oregon statute 181.575 states the following:

No law enforcement agency, as defined in ORS 181.010, may collect or maintain information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership 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. (emphasis added)

In its investigation of alleged terrorists, the FBI follows what is called the Smith guidelines (based on a former Attorney General Smith who modified the guidelines in 1983). Sections of the guidelines pertaining to intelligence gathering are as follows:

Domestic security /terrorism investigation may be initiated when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that two or more persons are engaged in an enterprise for the purpose of furthering political or social goals wholly or in part through activities that involve force or violence and a violation of the criminal laws of the United States.

[Section III (B) (1)] The standard of reasonable indication is substantially lower than probable cause. In determining whether there is reasonable indication of a federal criminal violation, a Special Agent may take into account any facts or circumstances that a prudent investigator would consider. However, the standard does require specific facts indicating a past, current, or impending violation. There must be an objective, factual basis for initiating the investigation; a mere hunch is insufficient.32

The FBI can initiate investigations in advance of criminal conduct as long as they're not based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment. Such investigations can be initiated if there are statements which advocate criminal activity or indicate an apparent intent to engage in crime, particularly crimes of violence, unless it is apparent that there is no prospect of harm.33

The ACLU quoted directly from the AG guidelines during a statement issued in 1995:

On some occasions the FBI may receive information or an allegation not warranting a full investigation -- because there is not yet a "reasonable indication" of criminal activities -- but whose responsible handling requires some further scrutiny of initial leads. In such circumstances, though the factual predicate for an investigation has not been met, the FBI may initiate an "inquiry" involving some measured review, contact, or observation activities in response to the allegation or information indicating the possibility of criminal activity. This authority to conduct inquiries short of a full investigation allows the government to respond in a measured way to ambiguous or incomplete information.34

According to the ACLU and the Center for National Security Studies, the review, contact and observation activities of an "inquiry referred to above, include the use of informants, physical surveillance, under cover operations and electronic surveillance.35

According to the revised ordinance establishing the PJTTF, the task force is to identify and target for prosecution those individuals or groups who are responsible for acts of criminal terrorism. At the City Council hearing on November 22, 2000, FBI Special Agent in Charge Kevin Favreau stated: "the types of cases involve criminal acts of individuals who are involved in extremist types of activity which we refer to as domestic terrorism which would have some type of federal nexus involved, violations of federal statutes such as the Hobbs Act, intimidations, forcing business out of business through the use of force or violence, arson, things of that nature."36

A violation of the Hobbs Act is considered a federal crime. The Act prohibits persons from depriving or attempting or conspiring to deprive someone (or commonly a business) of their property through the wrongful use or threat of force, violence, or fear, in a manner that affects or could have affected interstate commerce. The term 'property' also includes the right to conduct business, provide service, and any money spent on security measures as a result of being threatened. The violation does not have to intentionally affect interstate commerce.37

A "threat" must be what is considered a "true threat"; in other words, it must be a threat with the specific intent to threaten so that a recipient of the threat interprets it as a serious expression of intent to cause bodily harm or to assault. Such threats are considered against the lives and physical safety of persons and they are not protected by the First Amendment.38 An example of "interstate commerce" could involve a medical facility that purchased supplies made in another state.

Because a violation of the Hobbs Act is a violation of federal law, it constitutes a racketeering act under the Racketeering Influenced and Corruption Organization Act, known as RICO. A person violates the RICO Act if he or she participates in the conduct of the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. There is no need for an "enterprise" to be a formal organization with an economic purpose; it could be a political group. The enterprise or group must have an affect on interstate commerce, which it does if in any of its activities it crosses state lines through either travel, phone calls and/or the U.S. mail. (By crossing state lines this a federal crime rather than a state crime). The "pattern of racketeering activity" is met if at least two racketeering acts (including violations of the Hobbs Act) occur within 10 years of each other. The acts have to be related and continuous and can include the threat of future criminal conduct.39

"Report on Terrorism and Task Forces 1/11/01"

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