FBI Celebrates 100 Years of Service Throughout the U.S. Oregon FBI Marks 88 Years in August
For Immediate Release
July 30, 2008
Contact: Beth Anne Steele
FBI Celebrates 100 Years of Service Throughout the U.S.
Oregon FBI Marks 88 Years in August
The FBI in Oregon is celebrating two milestone anniversaries this week—the 100th birthday of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the 88th anniversary of the agency’s work in this state. In fact, the Portland office was one of the first “field offices” established in the FBI.
“This is a perfect time for us to look back at our many successes over the years,” said David Ian Miller, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Over the years, we’ve learned a great deal, too, and it is appropriate that we take time to reflect on the changes that have resulted.”
From the very beginning, the Portland Division has been involved in high-profile cases that attracted national attention. In 1935, Portland special agents helped recover a nine-year old kidnapping victim by the name of George Weyerhauser. Mr. Weyerhauser would eventually grow up to run the Weyerhauser Company, one of the largest pulp and paper companies in the world.
By 1942, the Division was operating one of the FBI’s key radio stations, which not only maintained contact with FBI Headquarters and undercover agents in South and Central America, but also helped to intercept Japanese radio traffic in order to identify and thwart Japanese intelligence missions on the West Coast.
With the 1950 launch of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives program, Portland gained a new ally in its criminal work—the American people. Three of the first ten of the Most Wanted Fugitives had Portland connections. Thomas James Holden, number one on the list, was a career criminal who was sought for a triple homicide. Agents of the Portland Division caught him on June 23, 1951 near Beaverton, Oregon. In total, 11 Top Ten fugitives were either from Oregon or were caught in Oregon. The most recent Oregon Top Ten fugitive was Christian Longo.
Starting in 1971, the Portland and Seattle Divisions worked the D.B. Cooper hijacking case. In 1974, a series of bombings at BPA power transmission towers and a $1 million extortion attempt kept agents busy. By 1975, attention turned to the investigation into the murder of two Minneapolis agents on an Indian Reservation. An Oregon State Police (OSP) trooper attempted to stop two of the suspects as they were driving in a caravan down I-84 (including a motor home owned by Marlon Brando). After a shootout, Portland agents found one of the murdered agent’s weapons in the roadway and Leonard Peltier’s bloody fingerprints inside a building in eastern Oregon. Peltier was convicted in the murders.
In 1984, while investigating Robert Mathews, founder of the white supremacist group “The Order”, Portland agents were fired upon at the Capri Motel in northeast Portland; a shootout ensued. One agent was wounded, but Mathews escaped. He was killed a few weeks later during a raid at a cabin on Whidbey Island, Washington. Eventually, dozens of members of The Order were tried and convicted on charges ranging from counterfeiting and conspiracy to racketeering and robbery.
The year 1984 also brought the first modern bio-terror attack on U.S. soil, and it happened in Oregon. The Rajneeshees, a cult dedicated to the Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, lived in a commune near the town of Antelope, Oregon. The group spread salmonella bacteria over salad bars at restaurants in The Dalles. During the investigation, the FBI and OSP also uncovered plans to kill then-U.S. Attorney Charles Turner. Two cult officials were convicted for their role in planning and implementing the bio-poisoning.
On January 6, 1994, a male attacker clubbed figure skater Nancy Kerrigan in the knee during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He was quickly linked to Kerrigan’s competitor Tonya Harding, and because of where Harding lived and trained, it was the responsibility of Portland Division to interview her about the crime. On January 18, 1994, national media satellite trucks gathered as Harding met with FBI agents in Portland for more than 10 hours as part of the investigation. A few months later, she pled guilty to hindering the investigation and was sentenced to probation and community service. Three others served jail time.
The attacks of September 11 immediately made preventing terrorist attacks the top priority of the FBI and the Portland Division. On October 3, 2002, following an extensive Portland Division investigation later dubbed the “Portland Seven” case, a federal grand jury indicted five men with Portland ties—Jeffrey Leon Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Bilal, Muhammad Bilal, and Habis al Saoub—on charges that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to wage war against U.S. troops. Also indicted was a Portland woman, October Lewis, on money laundering charges. In March 2002, a seventh subject, Maher Hawash, was picked up as material witness and then later charged in the case. All pled guilty except for al Saoub, who was killed fighting along the Pakistani-Afghani border.
The Portland Division has also worked domestic terrorism cases. In January 2006, a federal grand jury indicted 11 people as part of “Operation Backfire,” a nine-year FBI investigation into nearly 20 crimes committed by eco-terrorists across the western United States. The crimes, mostly arsons, caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. As the months passed, more indictments and arrests followed. A total of 10 members of “The Family” pled guilty. One was convicted at trial, and four remain fugitives.
“When those first agents were sworn in 100 years ago, they vowed to uphold the U.S. Constitution,” said Mr. Miller. “It is no different today. Each one of our 30,000 employees does the same, and we are very proud of the work they do.”
To learn more about the FBI’s Portland Division, its work in the state of Oregon, and its history, check out our new web page at http://portland.fbi.gov.
- NOTE - Public Domain as a publication of an agency of the United States Federal government, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.