The Portland Police Bureau’s Criminal Intelligence Unit referred six cases to the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force last year involving a bomb threat, threats to public officials, and threats of other targeted violence, according to a new Annual Report.
At least one arrest has been made – a man was taken into custody in Seattle in September on charges of threatening to bomb a Portland police station, according to the report and federal court records.
All of those investigated in all six cases were white males, the report noted.
The report warns of heightened fears of violence in Portland and across the country, including threats from racially or politically motivated violent extremists, as the United States remains divided along partisan lines. The task force reviews hundreds of tips each year and assesses and investigates threats to prevent possible terrorist attacks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020, combined with the racial justice events and civil unrest that followed the homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis, has resulted in an increase in extremist rhetoric and violence at United States, including Portland, ”the report says. noted.
“This trend looks likely to continue into 2021, given the current state of the pandemic and the political and social divide in the United States. “
Police cited as disturbing: last year’s plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the January 6 storming of the United States Capitol, shootings and violence at protest events for social justice, including those in Portland, a plot by white supremacists to attack grid American power and the federal indictment of a Troutdale man accused of producing and disseminating propaganda to encourage attacks on behalf of the Islamic State and search for recruits.
“The PPB, and our law enforcement and community partners, must continue to work to assess and investigate these threats to life, hate crimes and acts of terrorism, and work to prohibit and prevent violence to occur in our communities, ”the report says. .
In the bombing case, Kyle R. Tornow, 36, of Seattle is accused of using TrackIT, a Portland Police Department’s online communications system, to send a message on July 24 claiming he had placed explosives at a Portland police station and that the bomb was “undetectable” to police search dogs, according to court records.
If the police caught him, he wrote, “others will take my place and immediately detonate the bomb,” according to the records. The message claimed it was a “threat of crime” and should be taken “seriously to avoid death,” according to the government complaint.
The annual police accounts, required by city council, also gave broad summaries of four cases that the federal task force referred to the police office for follow-up attention last year:
– A man affiliated with an extremist anarchist group allegedly targeted a person linked to a “racially motivated violent extremist group”. No credible threat was determined and the case was closed.
– A man has expressed online a racially-motivated violent extremist ideology and his desire to acquire parts for an assault rifle and tactical equipment. The person was questioned and no arrests were made. The case was closed.
– A man expressed a desire to make tear gas, combustion solutions and smoke bombs. The person was questioned and the case was closed.
– An assault occurred during a protest in downtown Portland involving two men. Portland detectives were already aware of the alleged crime and had made arrests. Police did not give further details.
Portland criminal intelligence officers have also been asked to assist the task force in investigations stemming from the civil unrest last summer, in line with city policy, according to the report.
On January 2, 2020, the Police Bureau adopted a new directive which defines the parameters of the participation of officers in the federal working group.
It says the police chief may, at the request of the special agent in charge of the FBI, temporarily assign agents to the Portland-based task force to help investigate “any individual suspected case of terrorism and / or threat. to life, including hate crimes, in or directly related to the City of Portland where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct.
The directive was in response to a city council vote a year earlier when commissioners decided 3-2 to remove Portland officers from the task force, citing deep distrust in the program’s ability to stamp out terrorism while respecting the civil rights of residents.
The vote marked a political victory for Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who had made removing the police from the task force one of her top priorities in office. Then-commissioners Amanda Fritz and Chloe Eudaly joined Hardesty.
That meant removing two Portland criminal intelligence officers from the task force.
The pullout was the latest twist in Portland’s intermittent relationship with the FBI group, which the city joined in 1997, left in 2005, partially joined in 2011, and fully joined in 2015.
The police office is now authorized to partner with the FBI on specific threats, share information, and temporarily assign an officer from Portland to the task force under limited circumstances.
Last year, officers said they were not involved in any cell phone surveillance linked to last year’s protests, but conducted inquiries based on social media posts indicating someone had committed or planned to commit a crime, according to the office’s statements appended to the annual report. report.
The police statements were released in response to specific questions posed by a coalition of community and advocacy groups including Peace and Justice Works, Portland Copwatch, League of Women Voters of Portland, Portland Democratic Socialists of America , the Oregon ACLU, the Voice for Peace, 350PDX and Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer who was wrongly accused of a deadly terrorist attack in Madrid in 2004 based on a flawed fingerprint scan by the FBI.
The coalition said in a statement that it was important to know the extent of Portland Police’s involvement in the task force.
“With Oregon’s powerful anti-spy law in place, it is crucial for the public and city council to ensure that Portland agents are not used by the FBI to violate state laws and civil liberties. One of the only ways to achieve this is to ensure transparency in the activities of the Portland Police Force when they cooperate with the JTTF, ”the coalition said.
The report will be presented to Portland City Council at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“The threat of domestic terrorism, particularly that of racially motivated violent extremists and politically motivated violent extremists, is a significant and growing concern both within law enforcement and the communities we serve,” said police said in the report. “In addition, the threat of violence targeted by isolated actors, also known as lone wolf attacks, and attacks on critical infrastructure, such as railways or telecommunications, remain a constant concern. “
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