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Oregon AG Goes With Terror Probe

November 27, 2001

SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ The Oregon attorney general cleared the way Tuesday for state police and prosecutors to question foreign visitors as part of the federal terrorism investigation, a step made after Portland police refused to do the interrogations.

Attorney General Hardy Myers said state law doesn’t forbid his agency or State Police ``from conducting such interviews as part of a criminal investigation to identify and apprehend people who have conspired, or are conspiring, to commit crimes.″

He directed his Criminal Division to ``assist the federal government in the interview process.″ He said his advice affects only state investigators and local police must depend on their own counsel.

Portland police have refused a request from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to interview foreign visitors on grounds that it would violate state privacy laws.

Ashcroft has sought assistance from local law enforcement officers across the country in conducting voluntary interviews of some 5,000 people. Most are Middle Eastern men in the United States on nonimmigrant visas who hold passports from countries where the United States has identified terrorist cells.

Michael Mosman, U.S. attorney for Oregon, has said he believes the interviews are legal. Local agencies, however, have the right to refuse to help. The idea behind the request was to reduce the load on the FBI, he said.

A list of 200 names was given to Portland police.

The Justice Department recently sent a narrower list of questions to Portland city officials, eliminating a number of questions that had troubled Portland’s city attorney.

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