Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Badly Mistaken Identity

In March 2006, the US Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General (OIG), released its unclassified and redacted report entitled A Review of the FBI's Handling of the Brandon Mayfield Case.

On March 11, 2004, 10 bombs exploded on four early-morning commuter trains in three stations in Madrid, Spain. The blasts killed approximately 191 people and injured approximately 1,800. The BBC News compiled much of the publicly available information on its webpage entitled Madrid Train Attacks.

On March 19, 2004, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory Division identified an Oregon attorney, Brandon Mayfield, as the source of a fingerprint recovered on a piece of Madrid bombing evidence by the Spanish National Police (SNP). Mayfield was immediately placed under constant FBI surveillance and investigation. On May 6, 2004, after receiving news media inquiries about an American suspect in the Madrid bombing case, the FBI arrested Mayfield on a material witness warrant. But on May 19, 2004, the SNP notified the FBI that the SNP has positively identified the fingerprint as belonging to an Algerian national, not to Brandon Mayfield. The FBI was provided with the Algerian's fingerprint and concluded that it, not Mayfield's, was a match. Mayfield was released from US detention on May 20, 2004, and the material witness proceeding against him was dismissed formally on May 24, 2004.

On June 16, 2004, the OIG initiated an investigation into the FBI Laboratory's misidentification of Brandon Mayfield. The objectives of the OIG's investigation were:
  • To determine the causes of the FBI Laboratory's misidentification of the fingerprint and to assess the Laboratory's conduct in the matter
  • To assess the FBI Laboratory's responses to the error and to make recommendations to prevent future errors
  • To determine if the FBI had unfairly targeted Mayfield because of his religion (Islam)
  • To assess the FBI's conduct in Mayfield's investigation and arrest
  • To assess the FBI's conduct in representations it made to the US District Court in support of its requests for the material arrest warrant and search warrants
  • To assess the conditions of Mayfield's confinement prior to release.

The results of the OIG's investigation were reported in Chapter 7 of the report.


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