FBI Working with Brown U. Police Forces on Terrorism

Campus policeman helps chase down terrorism leads on campus

The national ACLU's FOIA request seeks FBI records in 40 subject areas, all relating to the function and activities of JTTFs. A few areas in the request relate to college campuses, though not specifically to partnerships between campus police and JTTFs. For example, the request seeks any bureau documents related to policies or practices of JTTFs for surveillance, interrogation or investigation of students, faculty or staff on campuses. The request also seeks the name and role of all agencies participating in JTTFs, which would include any campus police departments.

The government will release an initial round of the requested documents about JTTFs by next March, in accord with a judge-brokered agreement.

Mark Smith, director of the government relations office at the American Association of University Professors, which claims a membership of 45,000 academics, said his organization "would like to know anything we can about" arrangements between campus police and JTTFs.

Smith said he could not point to a specific incident about which the AAUP was concerned and said it did not want to "inhibit actual criminal investigations." But, he said, "We're concerned about anything that has the potential to violate academic freedom, and we have been concerned about the mindset of security people who in some cases overstep the bounds of constitutional protections."

The local picture

Locally, there does not appear to be any single factor that determines whether a school's police work with a JTTF.

"We do not have anyone quartered or assigned outside of this department," said Capt. Emil Fioravanti of Brown's DPS. Fioravanti said DPS does get information from a JTTF, but most of the information that comes in is national, not local.

Fioravanti said the Yale Police Department has a "radically different" mission from DPS because it has "a much stronger presence in the community."

Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety Mark Porter at times receives information about terrorism at weekly meetings he attends with other Rhode Island law enforcement agencies, according to Nickel.

"The University through these meetings is advised of any particular threats that the terrorism task force may identify from time to time, and it's good for the University to know about that," Nickel said.

Asked if Brown would consider assigning an officer to the local JTTF, Nickel said, "If there would be a perception that such a program would contribute to a higher degree of public safety ... (it) would be something that the University would at least take a look at."

Robert Drapeau, director of public safety at the University of Rhode Island, said his department gets bulletins about terrorism that would go out to other law enforcement agencies but does not have an officer assigned to a JTTF. Drapeau pointed out that URI has a small nuclear reactor and is currently revamping its screening policies for the crew of the Endeavor, URI's large research vessel. The URI police department has also received some training from a terrorism advisory committee out of the U.S. attorney's office in Rhode Island, Drapeau said.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a large research institution, has "a seat at the table" at a JTTF but uses it for informational purposes only and does not participate in any police work, according to MIT Chief of Police John DiFava.

DiFava said he is a big supporter of cooperation, but added, "I also believe that you stick to your venue and my people are paid for by MIT -- and we have a responsibility to the institute."

Officials at Harvard University would not comment about any arrangement with a JTTF, but as Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn wrote in an e-mail to The Herald, "Generally speaking, the [Harvard Police] Department is in contact with all levels of law enforcement -- local, state and federal -- and cooperates with them if and when there is an issue that might involve the university community."

The commentary in The Nation on JTTFs noted another New England school that, like Yale, does have an officer assigned to a JTTF: the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Further questions

Wizner, the ACLU attorney, questioned what would happen if a local law enforcement officer were deputized to a JTTF but the officer's parent agency had more "civil rights-friendly" policing guidelines than the FBI.