Unfortunately, a prime example of what’s wrong

As details continue to emerge about the case of Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon lawyer detained and then released as a “material witness” in the Madrid bombings, it becomes more and more a prime example of the problems with our anti-terror approach.

The New York Times reports: “Court records unsealed Tuesday showed that the Spanish authorities had raised questions about the F.B.I.’s fingerprint match to [Mayfield] weeks before his May 6 arrest. Yet F.B.I. officials were so confident of a match they described as ‘100 percent,’ the court papers show, that they never bothered to look at the original print while they were in Madrid on April 21, meeting with Spanish investigators.”

Further details appear in the government’s motion, which should cast things in a light most favorable to the government. It states that an FBI fingerprint lab examiner, “based upon a thorough scientific analysis,” determined the print provided by Spain matched Mayfield and that identification “was subsequently verified by at least three additional examiners.” After the Spanish National Police said the fingerprint belonged to someone else and the original was finally examined by the FBI, four FBI examiners spent the night of May 23 and part of the morning of May 24 conducting a “re-analysis” of the original print, concluding that what it originally examined was “of no value for identification purposes.”

Moreover, the case may be one showing exactly the threat posed by the Patriot Act. The Oregonian carries a story about how “sneak and peek” searches authorized by the act evidently occurring as early as March. (Via Behind The Homefront). We then went from these searches to, in the Oregonian’s words, “Secret search warrants. Sealed court documents. And, of course, the gag order that kept the Beaverton attorney from uttering a word about his captivity until the case was dismissed Monday morning.”

A New York times editorial is charitable calling this a case that “smacks of a rush to judgment based on flimsy evidence” and being one heavily influenced by Mayfield’s Muslim ties. The fact is it also demonstrates the extent to which this administration will invoke the Patriot Act’s draconian provisions. Doesn’t this all instill confidence with the government today warning that al Qaeda is planning a major attack in the US. That news, of course, will simply provide a basis to downplay Mayfield as “better safe than sorry.” Given the fact the government can offer no details of this impending threat, isn’t it an amazing coincidence how the announcement comes immediately after the Mayfield story?

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