- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

FBI fingerprint examiners “committed errors” in mistakenly linking an Oregon lawyer arrested as a material witness in the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 200 persons, but the suspect’s “adherence to Islam” played no role in its mistake, a report yesterday said.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine concluded in a 273-page report that the FBI fingerprint laboratory’s “overconfidence in the skill and superiority of its examiners” prevented it from seriously considering the Spanish National Police’s finding that the suspect’s print did not match one from the crime scene.

“The unusual similarity between Mayfield’s fingerprint and the fingerprint found on the bag confused three experienced FBI examiners and a court-appointed expert,” Mr. Fine said.

“The OIG concluded, however, that FBI examiners committed errors in the examination procedure and that the misidentification could have been prevented through a more rigorous application of several principles of latent fingerprint identification.”

Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim convert and a lawyer in Portland, Ore., was arrested by the FBI in May 2004 as a material witness after FBI fingerprint examiners identified his print as matching one found on a bag of detonators connected to the terrorist attack on commuter trains.

Mr. Mayfield was released two weeks later when the Spanish National Police identified an Algerian national as the source of the fingerprint on the bag. The FBI laboratory later withdrew its fingerprint identification. Mr. Mayfield has since accused the government in a lawsuit of singling him out because of his Muslim faith.

But Mr. Fine said his office found no evidence the FBI misused any of the provisions of the USA Patriot Act in conducting its investigation, saying Mr. Mayfield’s “adherence to Islam played no role in the initial, erroneous determination that there was a fingerprint match.”

He said the fingerprint specialists did not know Mr. Mayfield’s religion, his marriage to an Egyptian immigrant or his legal representation of other Muslims.

The FBI had obtained authority to conduct surveillance and searches of Mr. Mayfield’s home and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) through the Patriot Act. Mr. Fine did note that while searches conducted before his arrest were pursuant to the FISA warrant, after his arrest, the searches were based on criminal search warrants that did not involve the Patriot Act.

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