Suit: Anti-terrorism center collects protester intelligence

December 15, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Several environmental, Indigenous and social justice advocates are suing the Oregon Department of Justice, alleging the state’s TITAN Fusion Center for intelligence gathering has unlawfully spied on demonstrators fighting the $10 billion Jordan Cove pipeline.

The lawsuit argues that the center, one of dozens opened in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is also operating without state legislative authority, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Lawyers from the Policing Project at New York University School of Law filed the lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court on behalf of four plaintiffs.

“Until the Oregon legislature decides to authorize and set up appropriate guardrails, they shouldn’t be allowed to operate at all,” said Farhang Heydari, the Policing Project’s executive director.

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Kristina Edmunson, a spokesperson for the state Justice Department and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, said the department is reviewing the lawsuit and will respond in court.

She said the center works with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to produce threat assessments, officer safety bulletins, reports of missing persons and general crime bulletins. It also provides training to law enforcement agencies, businesses and first responders on public safety topics including active shooters. It’s supported by federal grants and funding from the state legislature, Edmunson said.

The lawsuit alleges the center has coordinated intelligence operations on Jordan Cove with firms hired by the private company funding the project with the goal of suppressing public dissent. Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp. proposed a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay with a feeder pipeline, the Pacific Connector, stretching halfway across Oregon.

“It is astonishing and disturbing to become the target of a well-resourced secret police solely because of my participation in peaceful rallies opposing a harmful fossil fuel pipeline across my ancestral lands,” said plaintiff Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, a member of the Klamath Tribes and a resident of Modoc Point who serves as a board member for environmental justice nonprofit Rogue Climate.

When the state Justice Department learned of the concerns about improper surveillance of Jordan Cove protesters, Edmunson said the department followed up immediately and then placed the Fusion Center employee on administrative leave. After an internal investigation, the department issued the employee a pre-dismissal notice and he chose to resign, she said.

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The lawsuit contends the state’s Fusion Center has overstepped its initial focus. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security created the centers for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to share information on threats to help anticipate terrorist attacks.

The plaintiffs want a judge to declare Oregon’s TITAN Fusion Center unlawful, halt its operations and order the center to destroy or expunge all records on them and their organizations.

Earlier this month, the developers that had hoped to build the Pacific Connector Pipeline and Jordan Cove Energy Project told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission they did not intend to move forward with the project.