FONT & AUDIO
It should be noted
- Ben Jacklet
- Portland Tribune - News
• Police biases led to surveillance, infiltration, even tampering with people's livelihoods
Frank Dufay had no idea he was being labeled a revolutionary communist when he took a job as a clerk at City Hall 22 years ago. But he was.
Buried within the 36 boxes of Portland Police Bureau political spy files recently obtained by the Portland Tribune is a 1980 report from intelligence officer Winfield Falk that portrays Dufay as an active member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
'It should be noted,' Falk writes, 'that other members of the RCP have worked at various jobs with the intent to create dissention (sic) wherever they worked.' Falk adds that Dufay 'does not have full civil service status at this time and can be terminated without reason.'
The Dufay report is one of many clues that intelligence officers of the time weren't just collecting information Ñ they were actively working to disrupt people's lives and hinder political movements with which they disagreed.
Falk, in particular, often injected his views in official reports until his frequent phrase 'It should be noted' became a flag signaling bias ahead.
Fortunately, Dufay wasn't fired for his political views. Two decades later, he works as an assessment and liens supervisor in the city auditor's office and lives in Southeast Portland. He won the mayor's 'Spirit of Portland' award as the best city employee in 1998.
When Dufay learned from the Tribune that early in his career a police intelligence officer had been concerned about his political activities and hinted that he should be let go, Dufay was baffled at first, then outraged.
'It's really spooky to see this thing,' he says. 'I've been with the city for 22 years. I'm a bit disgusted, to tell you the truth. I was just trying to have work and pay child support.'
Dufay says taking the job with the city was like 'growing up.' Today, he tries to make a difference through his work.
Dufay says the one-page intelligence report on him is filled with inaccuracies.
'Back when I was in Eugene, I was involved with the RCP, but they didn't like me,' Dufay says. 'They thought I was too petit bourgeois. To say I was a member was more than a stretch. I was more interested in union organizing, and these guys had a different agenda.'
Dufay says he agreed to talk with the Tribune about the old report because it raises issues that are important today.
'You think it can't happen to you, but then again, it can,' he says in an e-mailed note. 'It should give one pause to think about how the 'erosion of civil liberties' some of us seem to endorse in the name of fighting terrorism É well, that's not just what happens to the other guy.'
The police bureau's political-intelligence files were compiled from 1965 to the early 1980s on local political, ethnic and religious organizations. Intelligence officers built files on 576 groups, with cross-referenced index cards listing more than 3,000 individuals.
The files contain Ñ among other things Ñ job applications, employment histories, lists of funding sources, notes about people's sexual preferences, lists of creditors, property records and unemployment claims.
Intelligence officers Charley Trimble and Falk were the bureau's specialists in terrorism threats and political organizations. The reports they wrote show that Trimble, who died in 1992, and Falk, who died in 1987, let their strong personal convictions drive the way they performed their official duties.
Falk was a member of the John Birch Society and was described by former colleagues and friends as being obsessed with communism. With little proof, he linked leftist and black groups to the Communist Party.
In a 1978 report, Falk says of the anti-nuclear power activists in Portland: 'At the head of the operation is the Communist Party, Moscow, USSR.'
In a 1981 report, Falk warns a superior office of the impending visit of Maynard Jackson, the 38-year-old black mayor of Atlanta. In addition to supporting gun control, police accountability, 'Afro-American political power and black economics,' Falk notes Jackson was a member of the Jamaica Support Committee. Jamaica Prime Minister Michael Manley, Falk writes, 'held as his idol Fidel Castro and the country of Cuba.'
'It should be noted,' Falk writes in a report about a progressive wing of the Teamsters union, 'that the National Lawyers Guild is a front for the Communist Party.'
Falk's colleague Trimble served in the intelligence division for 18 years before leaving to work in the private sector in 1975. He made it clear exactly how he felt about 'dissident elements' in dozens of vitriolic reports, such as a 1972 discussion of how to infiltrate and disrupt political organizations.
For starters, he recommends infiltrating political organizations with informants and recording activists' names and phone numbers and the license plate numbers of their vehicles.
Next, Trimble recommends spreading fear and suspicion by planting subterfuge calls, performing overt and covert surveillance, infiltrating crowds with officers 'dressed in the same manner as the dissidents,' taking numerous photographs both secretly and in the open, and tying up phone lines 'through devious means.'
'When making pretext or subterfuge calls brief thoroughly and use female(s) as the callers,' Trimble writes. 'It appeared that their information was more accepted than male callers.'
20-plus officers wrote reports
lnterviews with people familiar with the police bureau's intelligence unit indicate that while the political files ultimately were Falk's responsibility, the entire unit was familiar with the political surveillance and contributed to it.
More than 20 police officers authored the intelligence reports found in the files. The reports were addressed to at least seven commanding officers.
Former employees describe a tight unit with little oversight and much pride.
The number of officers in the unit varied over time. At the height of Portland's political tension, in the early 1970s, the unit had 10 officers. Later, in the less turbulent early '80s, there were fewer officers in the unit, just four or five.
Another former employee recalls that each intelligence officer had a specialty, such as organized crime, biker gangs or political extremists. Each of their offices had separate file cabinets, in addition to a large, shared file room with tables. It's unclear whether the city's legal staff knew of the files kept in individual offices or inspected them.
The unit worked out of the old police headquarters at Southwest Second Avenue and Oak Street until the police bureau moved to the Justice Center Building, 1111 S.W. Second Ave., in 1984. A clerical staff provided support, running background checks on people who attended meetings or rallies. The checks were extensive, sometimes including the license plates of passing cars if they slowed down near a stakeout.
The clerks searched law enforcement databases, newspaper articles, motor vehicle records and public records to gather as much information as possible for the officers. At the completion of the search, the clerk would check off the name, usually underlined in red, on the report.
The files are full of thousands of names underlined in red, with a check mark beside each.
'By the time I left, I thought everyone in Portland was a subversive,' says a former intelligence unit clerk.
Many of the reports by Falk, Trimble and others violated official police bureau policy against compiling information on people or organizations based only on their political views. Falk, at least, wrote reports that violated a 1981 state law that bans collecting and keeping information on law-abiding people and groups.
Infiltrators go to great lengths
Falk, Trimble and their colleagues kept close watch over political events and the homes of politically active people.
The 'Terrorism, Misc. Ð Oregon' file, for example, contains a list of active groups to watch statewide. Under the subheading of 'Portland,' 44 groups are listed, including Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Portland State University Hispanic Student Union and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.
When the police couldn't get inside such political organizations on their own, they would send in informants.
The infiltrators varied in reliability and style. There were ex-cons who were trying to win points with law enforcement, students who seemed to enjoy snitching on their politically minded classmates, patriotic volunteers doing what they believed was right, and undercover police officers who lied their way into groups to spy on them.
In at least one case in the files, a police officer went undercover with a false name and invented alibis to infiltrate an anti-nuclear power group.
Having gained the trust of the leaders of the Trojan Decommissioning Alliance, the officer reports: 'I believe we can receive valuable information as to the activities and memberships of the groups. É I feel that my cover is complete, the name being Theodore A. Baumeister III, born 8-10-46, place of birth is Seattle, Washington. É I have established a cover of employment É as a part-time laborer and general worker. É This company is a close personal friend to myself and has been taken into confidence and can be fully trusted.'
Allegations of entrapment
Several people named in the Portland files say they believed that their groups were infiltrated not only by informants but by agent provocateurs. They could not prove whether these suspected agents collaborated with the Portland police or the FBI or, for that matter, whether they were agents at all.
Steve Kosokoff, a retired chairman of the speech department at PSU who opposed the war in Vietnam, was under surveillance in the early 1970s. His Northwest Portland home address appears in a Rolodex marked 'Militant Addresses.'
Today, Kosokoff works for international humanitarian organizations such as the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. He told the Tribune that in 1970 a person he believes was an agent provocateur tried to provide him and other antiwar activists to kill military recruiters rather than merely protest at their offices.
'He said that he had a gun in his car, and he thought he could really show where we stand by killing these guys,' Kosokoff says. 'The first thing that popped into mind was, this guy wants to get us to do this. So I said, 'This is not what we're doing. I'm going to walk out of this room right now and I'm going to call the police, and I'm going to turn your ass in.' '
Kosokoff reported the man by calling 911.
'We never saw him again,' he says.
Ben Richmond, an antiwar activist who now works for the Quaker church in Indiana, says he had a similar experience while conducting a nonviolent-protest training at the American Friends Service Committee headquarters in Southeast Portland in the early '70s. A man he did not recognize recommended blowing up the train tracks instead of sitting on them to block a train loaded with weapons.
'I took him aside, gave him my warning talk, and he disappeared,' Richmond says.
The FBI and the Portland Police Bureau still make frequent use of confidential informants, but officials say they follow strict guidelines about how the informants must behave.
Each informant who works with the Portland police today must first fill out and sign detailed forms swearing to behave legally and ethically and not to 'engage in any activity that would constitute entrapment, or that would persuade a person to commit a crime that they would ordinarily not commit.'
Richmond says he did not pursue a complaint with the police or the FBI after he thought his group was infiltrated because, in his view, 'they were working with a very different agenda from ours.'