U.S. lawyer settles in Madrid bombings lawsuit

/ Source: The Associated Press

A lawyer the FBI wrongly arrested after the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombings because of a misidentified fingerprint has settled part of his lawsuit against the U.S. government for $2 million.

Brandon Mayfield, who said he was detained for two weeks in 2004, continued to maintain he was arrested because of his Muslim faith.

FBI experts mistakenly matched a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators in Madrid to Mayfield's after the March 11, 2004, train bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500.

Mayfield was jailed on a material witness warrant but released after the FBI acknowledged the fingerprint was not his.

The government admitted in the settlement that it "performed covert physical searches of the Mayfield home and law office, and it also conducted electronic surveillance targeting Mr. Mayfield at both his home and law ofice," according to a statement released by Mayfield's attorney, Elden Rosenthal.

As part of the settlement, the government once again apologized to the Mayfield family, Rosenthal said.

The FBI referred calls for comment to the Justice Department. Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said the FBI has since adopted suggestions for improving its fingerprint identification process "to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mayfield does not happen again."

Two internal Justice investigations cleared the FBI and prosecutors of wrongdoing, she added.

A month later, Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine concluded Mayfield's faith was not the reason the FBI began its investigation.

May challenge Patriot Act
Rosenthal said the settlement allows Mayfield to continue to pursue his challenge of the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism laws passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The act allows the FBI access to books and documents through an order from a secret court and allows some government searches without probable cause that a crime has been committed, among other things.

In a statement Wednesday, Mayfield insisted he was arrested because of his faith.

"Not only does my detention as a material witness in the Madrid bombing underscore the fallacy that fingerprint identification is reliable, I hope the public will remember that the U.S. Government also targeted me and my family because of our Muslim religion," he said.