More Reasons for Brandon Mayfield's Incarceration
by Daniel Pipes
Brandon Mayfield is the Portland, Oregon lawyer and Muslim convert who spent two weeks in jail, May 6-20, as a result of a mis-identified fingerprint seeming to link him to the Madrid bombings on March 11, 2004. I attempted to show in "If You Are Muslim, You Are Suspect," that his "many connections to militant Islam and the global jihad" made it sensible to focus on him as a suspect.
Now, four months after he was released from custody, the U.S. Attorney in Oregon, Karin Immergut, has publicly presented further evidence to explain her office's suspicions about Mayfield. Her 4,700-word "Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion to Amend Order Requiring Destruction of Seized Items," dated Sept. 13, 2004 (and not online), explains how, pursuant to court-authorized searches, the government obtained a variety of evidence (and, the memo argues, that it needs to keep a copy of the evidence to respond to possible future litigation by Mayfield). The memo classifies the evidence against Mayfield into several categories (which I preserve as presented, with the exception of adjusting some faulty numbering):
While "there may be innocent explanations for all of these facts," Immergut concluded in the court filing, "this evidence demonstrates that the government and its agents were acting in good faith when they continued the material witness investigation and sought Mayfield's continued detention after his initial arrest." That makes good sense to me. (September 20, 2004)
Feb. 19, 2005 update: One of the circumstantial reasons I gave in my original article for focusing on Mayfield was that "Someone in Mr. Mayfield's house was in telephone contact with Perouz Sedaghaty (a.k.a. Pete Seda), director of the U.S. office of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a number of whose foreign branches have been designated as terrorist organizations." Well, on Feb. 17, Perouz Sedaghaty was one of two persons (the other being Soliman Buthe) indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by concealing efforts to funnel $150,000 to jihadists in Chechnya.
March 30, 2005 update: The U.S. Department of Justice, in a letter dated March 24, acknowledged for the first time that Brandon Mayfield was the target of secret searches into his home as part of the probe into the Madrid bombing. Under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, attorney Sara Clash-Drexler, explained (as reported by the Oregonian), that
Comment: Again, it is reassuring to learn how seriously law enforcement took this case, even if it turned out to be barking up a wrong tree.
July 14, 2005 update: Before Mayfield's arrest, Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele sent an e-mail to her counterpart in Los Angeles in which she referred to Mayfield as a "Muslim convert."
July 15, 2005 update: Mayfield's case against the U.S. Department of Justice and the USA PATRIOT Act begins with a pretrial hearing today in Portland, Oregon. The issue at hand is perfectly clear – was the government biased in selecting his fingerprint? The working out of this issue will be very complex, however.
Start with the DoJ reply to Mayfield's claim: "Mayfield was not arrested because he was a Muslim, but rather because fingerprint examiners believed his print to match the Spanish print." One reason the examiners might have believed his print matched better than the other ones they had in front of them was the circumstantial evidence of Mayfield being Muslim. (Of 20 possible matches, his was only 4th best, nonetheless, he was the one arrested.) To which I say, they used their common sense and good for them. But common sense is not official government policy, so the examiners will probably try to hide their real thought processes. Yet again, I repeat: one cannot win a war without naming the enemy.
July 16, 2005 update: The opening hearing of Mayfield's civil rights lawsuit took place. Noelle Crombie reports in the Oregonian that the Justice Department's trial lawyer, Richard Montague, responded to Mayfield's claim of being targeted as a Muslim. He acknowledged that the statement which served as the basis for a search warrant of Mayfield's home did mention Mayfield's Muslim faith, and that this was indeed relevant information. Religion may be included when applying for a warrant: "This is something law enforcement must take into account" because terror investigations oftentimes show that "people who committed these offenses do so in [pursuit of] a perverted" idea of Islam. Montague denied, however, that federal agents focused on Mayfield only because of his religion: "This does not mean he is being singled out."
In reply, Mayfield's lawyers said agents targeted Mayfield because he is Muslim, because his wife is Egyptian-born, because the family attends a mosque, and because Mayfield had connections to one of the "Portland Seven" terrorists. They also referred to the Beth Anne Steele e-mail (see July 14, 2005 update), noting that "The only description of Mr. Mayfield is that he is a Muslim. It permeates the investigation."
Jan. 6, 2006 update: The Justice Department's inspector general, Glenn Fine, issued a mostly-classified 273-page report on errors made in the Mayfield case. He faulted the FBI for sloppy work and he noted the role of religion in convincing FBI fingerprint experts that Mayfield's prints matched the one found on a bag in Spain. But he rejected Mayfield's basic contention: "We did not find any evidence that the FBI misused any of the provisions of the Patriot Act in conducting its investigation." Here is the complete section on "The Role of Mayfield's Religion in the Identification," from the unclassified executive summary of the report:
Mayfield responded by saying that the IG's report confirms he "was a victim of religious profiling."
Jan. 11, 2006 update: Karin J. Immergut, U.S. attorney for the district of Oregon, points out in a letter to the Oregonian that the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility conducted an investigation into the conduct of the prosecutors in her office and completely exonerated them (a fact the Oregonian chose not to report).
Jan. 15, 2006 update: David Reinhard, a columnist with the Oregonian, reviews the Mayfield case and comes to the sensible conclusion that it may show
Mar. 26, 2006 update: That report by Glenn Fine, inspector-general of the Department of Justice, mentioned in the Jan. 6, 2006 entry above is now publicly available in redacted form. Titled "A Review of the FBI's Handling of the Brandon Mavfield Case," it is in all 330 pages long, with only minor parts blacked out. Mark Larabee and Ashbel S. Green of the Oregonian do a good job of summing up its contents at "One mistaken clue sets a spy saga in motion."
Nov. 30, 2006 update: The FBI has agreed to settle with Mayfield by paying him US$2 million and offer him a formal apology. The federal government "regrets that it mistakenly linked Mr. Mayfield to this attack."
Comment: That comes out almost exactly $100 per minute for the two weeks. Wonder what I can do to get wrongly imprisoned and get that kind of compensation.
Sep. 26, 2007 update: U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken reviewed Mayfield's case against the government and ruled in his favor, gutting a portion of the USA PATRIOT Act. Key excerpts:
Aiken concludes that changes made by the Patriot Act in this regard "are unconstitutional because they violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution." (Page 44)
Comment: At this point, Mayfield has a slam-dunk with $2 million settlement and what appears to be a decision that guts the Patriot Act. For someone who think the Bush administration knew in advance about 9/11 compares the U.S. federal government to Nazi Germany, this must be a happy moment. For the rest of us, it is a bitter one.
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