According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) were established to give the FBI investigate jurisdiction over acts of terrorism committed within the United States against American citizens and American facilities overseas. The JTTFs also collects, analyzes, and distributes critical information and intelligence with other authorities combating terrorism.
The FBI states that an important component of the JTTFs is to investigate matters involving the use, or threats to use, weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical and nuclear threats.
To efficiently respond to potential terrorist threats, the FBI utilizes other members of the law enforcement community to coordinate terrorist related matters. Through this integration of the FBI and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the JTTFs assert an effective response to threats from domestic and international terrorists.
Recently, Dr. Miguel Tinker Salas, Arango Professor in Latin American History and Professor of History and Chicano/a Studies at the Pomona College in Claremont, CA was visited by the Los Angeles/FBI JTTFs.
Dr. Salas is considered an expert on Venezuela, Politics, Oil and Culture and is well informed on the U.S. presence in Venezuela. He is also an expert authority on US/Mex border culture and Latin American Immigration. Dr. Salas has authored, "The Venezuelan Exceptionalism Thesis: Separating Myth from Reality" (2005) and "Under the Shadow of the Eagles, The Border and the Transformation of Sonora During the Porfiriato" (1997).
The following is an excerpt from a letter sent out by Dr. Salas:
“I write to inform you that yesterday [March 7, 2006] during my office hours (Tuesday 2:30-4:30) I was visited by two agents of the LA County Sheriffs/FBI Joint Task Force on Terrorism (JTFT). They arrived at about 2:40-2:45 pm, sat outside my office while I attended to students, and then asked to see me. They had with them a copy of my profile from the [college] Web page, and other materials I could not see.
After identifying themselves, they proceeded to ask about my relation to Venezuela, the government, the community, my scholarship, my politics. They were especially interested in whether or not I had been approached by anyone in the Venezuelan government or embassy to speak up on Venezuelan related matters. In addition, they raised a whole host of other troubling questions, too long to summarize here.
They also indicated that the visit to my office was part of a larger effort to interview academics in the area. I do not know if this is happening at other schools.
After they departed, the three or four students who were outside my Office informed me that these individuals had asked them about my background, my classes, what I taught, my politics and they even wrote down the cartoons that are on my door. I consider this to be an attempt at intimidation and cast a pall on matters of academic freedom.”
Though Dr. Salas has not provided a reason why he feels that he was the object of the JTTFs informal investigation, one can speculate that it is a preliminary task leading to a possibility that the US intends to send troops into Latin America, starting with Venezuela.
It is important that our government intelligence agencies identify potential influences to any domestic opposition movements against US military offensives in foreign countries, but is this the task of the JTTFs as stated in the mission against domestic and foreign terrorism? Dr. Salas is not a potential terrorist, he does he have ties to any terrorist organizations and is certainly not a threat to his fellow US citizens.