Oregon’s geography has made it a key state for international commerce and border security. Along with the benefits from its access to sea, land, and air traffic, comes an increased risk to the state’s security. Oregon has a history of terrorist activity, including international, domestic, and eco-terrorists.
Portland in particular has been designated a high-threat, high-density target for terrorists and has a highly active FBI counterterrorism program. In 2010, the FBI was prominently involved in the sting operation to prevent the Portland bomber in the Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas tree plot from being able to use his car bomb to kill thousands of people.
Another threat to Oregon’s security is the high level of drug traffic that moves through the state. The federal government considered the situation severe enough to designate a number of counties as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). These include Clackamas and Multnomah counties. The U.S. Marshal’s Service spearheads a fugitive task force to identify fugitives involved in drug trafficking and money laundering in this HIDTA.
This trend is fueled by the high level of drug abuse in Oregon, which had the highest level of illicit drug use in the country in 2007-2008 based on three different measures of drug usage. In addition, DEA agents are kept busy fighting the distribution of marijuana to other states from Oregon’s medicinal marijuana facilities and from drug operations within the state.
Federal efforts in Oregon vary from FBI initiatives to prevent bombings, to Coast Guard rescues of people in distress. At least 20 federal law enforcement agencies are active in the state providing a number of potential jobs for Oregon citizens.
Over 750 full time federal agents with the authority to carry firearms and make arrests had careers in Oregon in 2008. One way to join these federal officers is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or other relevant concentration such as homeland security, forensic science or public safety then apply to one of the many federal agencies that operate in the state. A bachelor’s degree is the standard minimum for most federal law enforcement jobs.
Federal Law Enforcement at Work in Oregon
ICE – In addition to this agency’s role in arresting foreign nationals who have committed crimes in the U.S., it also investigates the theft and trafficking of cultural artifacts from other countries. It does this through its Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Division. In 2011, ICE and CBP officials returned 99 pre-Columbian artifacts to the Panamanian government. These items were discovered in Portland and Los Angeles.
FBI – The FBI’s Division in Portland was one of the earliest in the country and played a pivotal role in counterespionage during World War II and the Cold War. After 9/11, FBI agents in Portland intensified their efforts against terrorists, both domestic and foreign. Key successes in these efforts included the following:
- The Portland Seven case: seven people were indicted in 2002 for their plans to go to Afghanistan and wage war against the US.
- Operation Backfire: the culmination of a nine-year investigation into almost 20 crimes committed by eco-terrorists resulted in a number of guilty pleas by members of The Family in 2006.
- The Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas tree plot: originally identified from a tip, the FBI created a sting operation and rigged a fake car bomb that the bomber tried to detonate twice in 2010.
- The 2013 arrest of an individual for firebombing the District Attorney’s Office in Medford.
DEA – Portland is the major drug market in the Oregon HIDTA. Drug trafficking is facilitated by the transportation infrastructure of the city that includes the following:
- Port of Portland seaport
- Portland International Airport
- US highways 26, 30, and 99
- Interstates 5 and 84
- Metropolitan Area Express
DEA agents in Portland fight the wide scale distribution of heroin and methamphetamine. The distribution of marijuana is also a significant problem for several reasons. The drug sells for about twice as much on the East Coast and Midwest compared to within Oregon.
Asian drug trafficking organizations have large-scale marijuana growing operations in Oregon. This enables them to avoid the risk of transporting it over the Canadian border. Another major source of the drug is from the state’s medical marijuana program. DEA agents have found that over a third of the drug seized that originally came from Oregon had been destined for this program.
DEA and FBI Training – Recruits for both of these agencies go to Quantico for training. DEA agents train at both the DEA and FBI Academies, while FBI agents are trained at this agency’s academy. In addition, the FBI built a training facility within Oregon: the Columbia County Firearms Range Complex (CCFRC).
Federal Law Enforcement Offices in Oregon
Primary Offices Located in Portland:
- ICE Detention Office
- Secret Service
Coast Guard Locations:
- Coos Bay
- Depot Bay
- North Bend
- Winchester Bay
U.S. Marshals Locations:
- North Bend