Saturday, May 22, 2004

The FBI's "Jewel" in the crown

When the FBI held Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield in connection with the Madrid bombings, they no doubt felt that this catch would prove a feather in their collective cap. Instead, this fiasco has become another "Jewel" in the crown.

"Jewel" as in Richard.

As the L.A. Times indicates, Mayfield came under suspicion of participation in the terror attacks based on fingerprint evidence. His real crime seems to have been converting to Islam. Mayfield was detained and his name smeared in the press before the feds verified whether or not he had even left the country -- which, as it turns out, he had not.

The authorities in Madrid determined that the fingerprints in question actually belong to an Algerian, Ouhnane Daoud.

Mayfield has been released, but the FBI arrogantly refuses to 'fess up to their mistake. This miscarriage of justice illustrates the potential for abuse when an administration holds someone as a "material witness" not because he or she is a flight risk, but simply to keep that person in custody while a case is cobbled together.

To describe an injustice of this sort, the standard literary reference takes us into Kafka territory. But even Kafka's Josef K. received fairer treatment.

Y'know, the Bureau really has gone to hell ever since they fired Mulder and Scully. Maybe those two should be re-hired to chase sea serpents and leprechauns and whatnot. It's time we got something valuable for our tax dollars.

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