The Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) is a partnership between local police and the FBI aimed at uncovering and preventing terrorist plots before they happen. Last week the city of San Francisco announced it was suspending its cooperation with the JTTF. From Fox News:
“In my opinion, the decision by the mayor and the police chief to withdraw the San Francisco Police Department from the JTTF is really narrow-minded,” said Mark Rossini, a retired FBI special agent, and founding executive of the National Counterterrorism Center, who served as a representative to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. “Politics aside, and the mayor and leaders of San Francisco have their right to their opinion, political opinion and beliefs. But when you’re working in law enforcement, law enforcement should know no politics.”
The FBI leads the 104 Joint Terrorism Task Force units across the country, but the majority of intelligence about crime and terror comes from local sources, said Claude Arnold, a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, who worked in California.
“There is less chance of uncovering networks, plots, missing pieces of a puzzle, without cities participating in the JTTF,” Arnold said.
The 10-year old memorandum of understanding on which the JTTF partnership in San Francisco was based was already set to expire in March. Last week the city’s new police chief announced unexpectedly that he was suspending the agreement a month early. Officially, his decision has nothing to do with President Trump, but it just happens to coincide with the city holding meeting with activists who are concerned the agreement could be used by the new administration to target Muslims. From ABC 7 San Francisco:
“Donald Trump made very clear that he was going to be targeting Muslims and he wants mass Muslim surveillance and part of the work done with the JTTF could feed into this horrible Muslim registry, they’re talking about,” said retired attorney John Crew, who fights for civil liberty issues…
“Surveillance targeting any community today the Muslim community is a danger to all Americans,” said Zahara Billo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Because what it does is lower the standards by which our government can come after us.”
It’s still possible the SFPD will reach a new agreement with the FBI to replace the MOU that was about to expire anyway. Given that the JTTF has been involved in uncovering dozens of terror plots nationwide since 9/11, failing to do so seems like a big risk to take.