- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — In a rare public apology, the FBI admitted mistakenly linking an American lawyer’s fingerprint to one found near the scene of a terrorist bombing in Spain, a blunder that led to his imprisonment for two weeks.

The apology on Monday came hours after a judge dismissed the case against Brandon Mayfield, who had been held as a material witness in the Madrid bombings case, which killed 191 persons and injured about 2,000 others.

Mr. Mayfield, a 37-year-old convert to Islam, sharply criticized the government, calling his time behind bars “humiliating” and “embarrassing” and saying he was targeted because of his religion.

“This whole process has been a harrowing ordeal. It shouldn’t happen to anybody,” he said. “I believe I was singled out and discriminated against, I feel, as a Muslim.”

Karin J. Immergut, the U.S. attorney in Oregon, denied Mr. Mayfield had been a target because he is a Muslim and maintained that the FBI had followed all laws in the case.

Court documents released Monday suggested that the mistaken arrest sprang from an error by the FBI’s supercomputer for matching fingerprints and was compounded by analysts.

“The FBI apologizes to Mr. Mayfield and his family for the hardships that this matter has caused,” the bureau said in a statement.

The agency said it will review how it handles fingerprints, especially in cases such as the one involving Mr. Mayfield, where forensic analysts must rely on digital images rather than original evidence. For the review, an international panel will examine what happened in the Mayfield case.

FBI officials said yesterday they would have no further comment on the case.

Mr. Mayfield, a former Army lieutenant, was released last week. But he was not altogether cleared of suspicion; the government said he remained a material witness and put restrictions on his movements.

Those restrictions were lifted Monday.

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