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SF Supes Consider Local Oversight of FBI Terrorism Investigations

| January 24, 2012
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San Francisco supervisors are considering legislation that will require local control and civilian oversight of terrorism investigations the San Francisco Police Department undertakes with the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Calling it ‘The Portland Solution’ because it mirrors a similar ordinance enacted in Oregon, Supervisor Jane Kim said Tuesday her legislation does nothing more than restore transparency to intelligence gathering by police officers working with FBI agents.

“Our South Asian, Arab and Muslim neighbors want to know that our police officers won’t engage in surveillance or infiltration without reasonable suspicion,” said Kim.

The ordinance amends the city’s administrative code to require local and state standards for investigations – which are stricter than federal requirements – to apply to the Police Department’s participation in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). It also urges the Chief of Police to ‘amend or terminate’ a current JTTF agreement. 

Kim was joined by community advocates and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union. Ashwak Hauter with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center says her community is being unfairly targeted.

“We are doing this to bring about systematic policy changes and to create a culture that will not tolerate discrimination or profiling,” said Hauter. “No community should feel silenced or unsafe.

The proposed law follows a nearly two-year campaign by activists to end the Police Department’s agreement with the FBI. Concern over the arrangement grew after disclosures that some FBI training materials exhibited an anti-Muslim bias.

A spokesman for the Police Department says Chief Greg Suhr has already addressed the issue through a directive requiring officers to follow local rules that protect residents from unwarranted investigations.

A spokesperson for the FBI’s San Francisco Division said the office does not comment on local legislative matters.

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