What is a JTTF?
According to the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) run out of Bureau field offices and, together with local agencies, conduct investigations into actual or potential terrorist threats. The Massachusetts JTTF conducts hundreds of investigations in Massachusetts every year using a broad array of tools.
How does the JTTF operate?
Unfortunately we know little about JTTF structure and activity. For example, there is no publicly available list of agencies that participate in the Massachusetts JTTF, and it is unclear what protocols and chain of command govern local police officers when they work with this federal task force.
Multiple times over the past decade, the FBI has relaxed the rules governing its agents' investigatory authorities, and broadened their surveillance powers.
What can the JTTF do?
Since 2008, FBI and JTTF agents have had the power to open so-called "assessments"—the first tier of FBI investigation—on individuals even without any factual indication of wrongdoing or threat to national security. During FBI assessments, agents may use intrusive investigative techniques including but not limited to confidential informants, interviews under false pretenses, and unlimited physical surveillance techniques previously reserved for investigations supported by a factual criminal predicate.
In other words, under the new regulations, the FBI can deploy a powerful arsenal of investigatory techniques against you, even if it has no reason to suspect you are involved in crime.
What is the ACLU doing?
In 2014, the ACLU of Massachusetts sued the FBI and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz to learn more about Massachusetts participation in JTTFs, as well as the role of JTTFs in the death of Ibragim Todashev, the associate of Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed during interrogation by a Boston FBI agent and two Massachusetts state police officers in 2013.