Retirement of Portland’s Top FBI Agent Could Speed Up City’s Decision to Rejoin the FBI’s JTTF

FBI's Art Balizan
By Allan Lengel

The longstanding rift between the city of Portland, Ore., and the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force could get resolved quicker than expected, thanks to the pending departure by month’s end of the head of the city’s FBI office, the Portland Mercury news website reports.

The city pulled Portland police out of the local JTTF in in 2005 in protest after the then-Mayor Tom Potter and Police Chief Derrick Foxworth were blocked from getting classified information because they didn’t have a security clearance. Some residents also thought the unit was unjustifiably spying on citizens and violating state and local laws.

This past November,  the city was pressed to rethink the issue of rejoining the JTTF after the FBI arrested a 19-year-old man in a terrorism sting. The man allegedly planned to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the city’s Pioneer Square.

But some commission members remain opposed to rejoining, and some local skeptics insist the terrorism plot was created by the FBI sting, and that Portland was never really in any danger as the arrest suggested.  A city commission vote on the issue has been delayed three times.

The Portland Mercury reports that Mayor Sam Adams may be pressed to strike up some deal with the JTTF that council members can accept  because the head of the Portland FBI, who turns 57 this year — the mandatory retirement age — is retiring at the end of the month to take a job out of state.

The website wrote: “For anyone grumbling that the work on Portland’s Joint Terrorism Task Force dalliance has been moving too slowly, you might be pleasantly surprised by a sudden speed-up. Art Balizan, the special agent in charge of Portland’s FBI field office, is leaving at the end of the month. Which means Mayor Sam Adams will be working like hell to find a compromise with the feds and his city council colleagues before he suddenly finds himself starting over with a brand-new FBI partner.

“Sources in city hall have been bandying around the words “next week” and “very soon” when talking about when the mayor might unveil the draft agreement he’s been shopping with the feds and the council. And now I know one reason why. Having to work with an interim FBI special agent, or even a new permanent agent, could slow the process down dramatically.”

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