Portland, Oregon: A Sleepy City or City of Sleepers

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

6 June 2005: Portland appears to be a city of many distinctions, not the least of which is that it is the home of the “Portland Seven,” referring to seven Portland area Islamic militants who were arrested and accused of conspiring to travel to Afghanistan to help the Taliban fight the U.S. military. Six of the defendants are serving prison terms of up to 18 years while the seventh was killed in an October 2003 shootout in Pakistan.

More recently, Portland achieved the distinction to be the first municipality in the nation to pull out of the Justice Department’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Some called it a “rejection of President Bush’s politics of fear,” while more rational people have called it just plain stupid. I vote for the latter, especially in light of the events of this weekend in Multnomah County, Oregon.

Multnomah County Sheriff deputies caught two Muslim men, Abdullah Shabbaz and Jason Merrigan, a/k/a Yassin Abdurahman shooting assault rifles on Larch Mountain on Saturday, 28 May 2005. According to police reports, they also possessed a duffle bag containing semi-automatic assault rifles, handguns, clips and a gas mask, in addition to the assault rifles they were shooting. Both men were ticketed for trespassing and lying to authorities; Abdurahman (Merrigan) also had an outstanding warrant for a drug charge. In an interesting coincidence, the area where the two were shooting is a heavily wooded area near the Columbia River Gorge, just across the river from the gravel pit where some of the “Portland Seven” were found to be “target practicing” shortly before their arrest.

Portland: From the “City of Rose” to the “City of Guns & Roses?”

Portland has long been known as the “City of Roses.” Perhaps with the political grandstanding that led to the majority of Portland’s leaders nixing their interaction with the U.S. Justice Department, it will become known as the city of “Guns & Roses.” The stated cause for Portland”s pullout from the JTTF stems from the demand by Portland Mayor Tom Potter and Chief of Police Derrick Foxworth that they be granted the same “top secret” clearance as the Portland police officers assigned to the FBI directed Task Force. Absent of that, they reasoned, there would be no way to insure the JTTF operates within the bounds of Oregon law and the state Constitution.

In a news conference about the issue earlier this year, Robert Jordan, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge (SAC) in Portland, stated that the demand is “not feasible or reasonable  since no other mayor in the 100 cities and towns with JTTF teams has been granted top secret clearance.

Apparently, though, the issue is a moot point if you would ask Portland city commissioner Randy Leonard. Written in an article on Portland’s own official website dated Tuesday, March 1, 2005, Portland city commissioner Randy Leonard scoffed at a CNN report that said Portland may be one of six cities with “terror sleeper cells” and said the report is part of a public relations campaign being waged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to force the city into joining an anti-terror task force without conditions.

In that same article, FBI SAC Jordan stated that the bureau knows of “jihadists” who trained in Afghanistan and other unspecified countries and are now living in Oregon.

“We don’t have an imminent threat that we’re aware of. But I will say this: We have people here in Oregon that have trained in jihadist camps in bad areas, in the bad neighborhoods of the world,” Jordan told the Associated Press in Portland in late January.

The FBI report was apparently not sufficient for the non-believing Randy Leonard, as the article stated: “If sleeper cells are in the community’s midst, no one from the Portland FBI has ever told him, Leonard said.”

Although doubtful, one can only hope that the sound of assault rifles being fired in his own backyard by Shabbaz and Abdurahman, who are apparently waging their own public relations campaign of Islamic militancy might be a sufficient wake-up call for the city commissioner and his political sycophants.