The city of San Francisco escalated its defiance of federal law enforcement authority Friday by withdrawing from its partnership with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force — a move that many critics warn could place the city and its citizens in significant danger.
San Francisco, which already is considered a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, has added its refusal to cooperate with the JTTF to the list of headaches it has given federal agents. San Francisco decided to withdraw, at least temporarily, from cooperation with the task force that has foiled at least 93 terrorist plots since 9/11 after pro-Muslim activist groups pressured the city.
“But when you’re working in law enforcement, law enforcement should know no politics.”
The group claimed cooperation with the FBI under President Donald Trump’s administration would inappropriately target Muslim communities.
“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,” Mark Rossini, a retired FBI special agent who founded the National Counterterrorism Center, told Fox News. “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.”
Of the 93 terrorist attacks foiled since 2001, the JTTF prevented at least 12 from occurring this year alone, according to data from The Heritage Foundation. At least 1,000 investigations into potential terror threats also are still ongoing nationwide. In addition, San Francisco’s withdrawal from cooperation with the JTTF comes several months after a pro-ISIS video surfaced in the days following the June 12 Orlando nightclub shooting, calling for increased attacks in San Francisco and Las Vegas.
Former Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), who served on the U.S. Homeland Security Committee and lost her Senate bid in 2016, told a local CBS News outlet in June 2016 that the San Francisco Bay Area has “never been spared” from terrorist threats.
“We’ve had just really good intelligence and people working every day to keep us safe,” Sanchez said. “There’s things going on all the time. But if we’re doing our job right, we’re catching almost everything. You haven’t seen in so many years attacks here in California. Do things slip through? Yes. What’s the biggest first step we have in stopping what these people are trying to do? It’s our own people.”
But is San Francisco really “doing our job right” if it is declining to cooperate with the JTTF?
“There is less chance of uncovering networks, plots, missing pieces of a puzzle, without cities participating in the JTTF,” Claude Arnold, a California-based former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent placed in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, told Fox News.
Rossini added, “Information must flow both ways in these cases … By San Francisco pulling out, you’re losing that vital link of data that the FBI and the other federal agencies and the Department of Justice will need in order to complete its cases and investigate them thoroughly.”
City officials have not yet disclosed whether they will renegotiate the now expired agreement with the JTTF in the future. A spokesperson for the police department noted that the expired agreement is still under review.
“This issue is really about the need for local police officers to comply with state and local laws and policies even when they are working with the FBI JTTF,” John Crew, a retired attorney who works with the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Fox News. “I’m not the least bit concerned.”
But critics of the city's decision remain unconvinced.
"Last time I checked, we're all part of the 50 states ... So let us continue to work together when it comes to the law, when it comes to law enforcement," Rossini added. "You want to do politics another day."
But Crew and San Francisco's activists seem unconcerned with their critics' warnings.
"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," Crew told a local ABC News affiliate in February.