Arresting WitnessesFour days latter we learned that the fingerprint was indeed "misread" and the case against Mayfield was dismissed.
Saturday, May 22, 2004WHEN PORTLAND, Ore., lawyer Brandon Mayfield was taken into federal custody two weeks ago under a material-witness warrant, an indictment seemed likely to follow. A fingerprint belonging to Mayfield, who had converted to Islam, reportedly had been found on a bag of detonators connected to the deadly Madrid bombing, and Mr. Mayfield had done legal work for an Islamic radical successfully prosecuted in Oregon. Yet this week Mr. Mayfield walked out of detention a free man; Spanish police had reportedly tied the fingerprint on the bag to an Algerian. And the Justice Department now finds itself with some explaining to do.
A gag order on the case makes information scant, and the court, in releasing him, noted that his "release will be supervised" and that there will be "further grand jury proceedings wherein he remains a material witness." Many more facts may yet emerge. It isn't too soon, however, to ask whether someone misread a fingerprint, and if so who and why; or to worry that federal authorities might have arrested someone without the evidence to bring a responsible case.
The case began when FBI fingerprint examiners in Quantico, Va., searched for possible matches to a digital image of a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators the day of the Spanish bombings on March 11.But they had additional evidence, he was a Muslim.
The system returned 15 possible matches, including prints belonging to Mayfield, on file from a 1984 burglary arrest in Wichita, Kan., when Mayfield was a teenager.
Three separate FBI examiners narrowed the identification to Mayfield, according to Robert Jordan, the FBI agent in charge of Oregon. A court-appointed fingerprint expert agreed.
Spain doubted any connection
The FBI maintained its certainty even as Spanish authorities said by mid-April that the original image of the fingerprint taken directly from the bag did not match Mayfield's, Wax said.
Last week, Spanish authorities said the fingerprints of an Algerian man were on the bag. Jordan said FBI examiners flew to Spain, viewed the original print pattern of the fingerprint on paper, and agreed that it was not Mayfield's.
As additional evidence in support of Mayfield's arrest, the FBI pointed to Mayfield's attendance at a local mosque, his advertising legal services in a publication owned by a man suspected to have links to terrorism, and a telephone call his wife placed to a branch of an Islamic charity with suspected terrorist ties.A year latter Mayfield is getting his day in court against the FBI and the Patriot Act.
Mayfield case rivets crowd
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Before he stepped into a federal courtroom Friday morning, Brandon Mayfield confided to one of his lawyers that he was scared. The last time Mayfield sat in one of the wood-paneled courtrooms, he was shackled and led into the room through a back elevator.Exspansion of FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) powers under the Patriot Act questioned.
He was, his attorney Gerry Spence told the court, "treated like a common criminal."
Mayfield is challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act and another federal law used by agents to secretly search his Aloha home and office in connection with the Madrid terrorist attacks last year.
Mayfield believes he was targeted because of his Muslim faith. His lawyers want to interview federal officials and obtain documents to learn how the FBI mistakenly connected Mayfield to a fingerprint found at the bombing scene. Mayfield was arrested as a material witness and jailed for two weeks before the FBI conceded the mistake and apologized.
Meanwhile, the government has asked the judge to dismiss Mayfield's challenge of the Patriot Act and to dismiss from the lawsuit the individual fingerprint analysts who made the identification.
Spence hammered away at the government's desire for secrecy and what he described repeatedly as the FBI's perception that it is infallible.This case is a startling example of the evils of the Patriot Act. It shows what happens when federal agencies wish to look like they are doing something and are sloppy and incompetent in the process. It could happen to you -- it could happen to me.
Jeffrey Bucholtz, deputy assistant attorney general, argued for the dismissal of Mayfield's claim against FISA's use in the searches. The Patriot Act broadened certain provisions of FISA, which is used to spy on suspected foreign operatives in the United States.
Bucholtz said the government has already voluntarily disclosed that Mayfield was the subject of secret FISA searches and that DNA samples along with other personal effects were seized from his home.
"That does not mean, it is not true, that the information the plaintiffs seek -- the details -- also can be disclosed," Bucholtz told the court.
But Spence and Rosenthal said they do not want details of the government's spycraft. They want an inventory of exactly what was taken from Mayfield and how the information was disseminated throughout federal law enforcement agencies.