Joint Terrorism Task Forces as a Window into the Security vs. Civil Liberties Debate

34 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2012 Last revised: 18 May 2012

See all articles by Tung Yin

Tung Yin

Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library

Date Written: April 27, 2012


Over 100 cities in the United States currently participate in Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In a typical JTTF arrangement, local police officers are detailed to a task force with federal agents to cooperate in the investigation of potential terrorism. However, JTTFs are not without controversy, with critics arguing that they may infringe civil liberties more than if the FBI and local police operated without coordination. These concerns, and others, led the city of Portland to withdraw from its JTTF in 2005, the only city to have done so. After a federal undercover sting operation foiled an alleged would-be bomber in late 2010, however, the city reconsidered and, after a contentious debate, reversed its prior decision. The arguments for and against JTTF participation turn out to mirror an important previous national security/civil liberties debate – that over “the Wall” that prevented information sharing between intelligence agents and law enforcement agents. This Symposium Article uses the Portland experience to explore the benefits of JTTFs in the form of increased information sharing and making use of institutional advantages, as well as their costs in the form of potential commandeering of local officers. The article also considers proposals to prevent government abuses by barring JTTFs altogether, versus improving oversight mechanisms.

Keywords: terrorism, joint terrorism task force, the wall, fisa, 9/11, information sharing, commandeering, federalism

JEL Classification: K14, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Yin, Tung, Joint Terrorism Task Forces as a Window into the Security vs. Civil Liberties Debate (April 27, 2012). Florida Coastal Law Review, vol. 13, Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-13, Available at SSRN:

Tung Yin (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark College Paul L Boley Library ( email )

10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States

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