Now, add to the long list of botched “Muslim terror” investigations pursued and prosecuted by the Justice Department and FBI the case of one Brandon Mayfield. The counter-terror happy warriors in our government have just made Mr. Mayfield $2-million richer by botching an FBI fingerprint identification which wrongly linked him to the Madrid train bombings carried out by a European Al Qaeda cell:
The federal government agreed to pay $2 million Wednesday to an Oregon lawyer wrongly jailed in connection with the 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid, and it issued a formal apology to him and his family.
The unusual settlement caps a two-and-a-half-year ordeal that saw…Brandon Mayfield, go from being a suspected terrorist operative to a symbol, in the eyes of his supporters, of government overzealousness in the war on terrorism.
“The United States of America apologizes to Mr. Brandon Mayfield and his family for the suffering caused” by his mistaken arrest, the government’s apology began. It added that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which erroneously linked him to the Madrid bombs through a fingerprinting mistake, had taken steps “to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mayfield and the Mayfield family does not happen again.”
And well do the feds owe this man an apology for the wringer they put him through:
At an emotional news conference in Portland announcing the settlement, Mr. Mayfield said he and his wife, an Egyptian immigrant, and their three children still suffered from the scars left by the government’s surveillance of him and his jailing for two weeks in May 2004.
“The horrific pain, torture and humiliation that this has caused myself and my family is hard to put into words,” said Mr. Mayfield, an American-born convert to Islam and a former lieutenant in the Army.
“The days, weeks and months following my arrest,” he said, “were some of the darkest we have had to endure. I personally was subject to lockdown, strip searches, sleep deprivation, unsanitary living conditions, shackles and chains, threats, physical pain and humiliation.”
Keep in mind that this is an American citizen and former U.S. military officer who was treated similarly to a top-drawer Al Qaeda operative at Guantanamo. This is what our “war on terror” does to our nation’s citizens, let alone to non-citizen/enemy combatants who share none of the currently feeble protections we citizens are guaranteed.
It is quite instructive to learn about the underlying motivations that spurred the government’s zealotry in pursuit of Mayfield:
Despite doubts from Spanish officials about the validity of the fingerprint match, American officials began an aggressive high-level investigation into Mr. Mayfield in the weeks after the bombings. The fact that he had represented a terrorism defendant in a child-custody case in Portland spurred further interest in him. Using expanded surveillance powers under the USA Patriot Act, the government wiretapped his conversations, conducted secret searches of his home and his law office and jailed him for two weeks as a material witness in the case before a judge threw out the case against him.
This is what the John Yoos, John Ashcrofts and Alberto Gonzaleses of the Bush Administration have provided as a legacy to us. In their heyday, all you needed was a flimsy fingerprint ID and representing the wrong client to turn you into Al Qaeda.
This settlement marks yet another significant shift politically away from the national security state created by Bush since 2001 and toward what I hope will be a more tolerant and restrained exercise of government power to protect our citizens from terrorist threat.