For Muslims Wrongly Accused, Apology is not Enough

May 27, 2004

Source: The Washington Post

On May 27, 2004 The Washington Post reported, " The FBI has graciously, and properly, apologized to Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield. Mr. Mayfield, a convert to Islam, was detained for two weeks as a material witness in connection with the March 11 Madrid bombings. He was released and exonerated when the FBI conceded that a fingerprint analysis linking him to a bag of detonators found by Spanish authorities was wrong... But neither the bureau's apology nor its self-examination speak to the fundamental issue of how the government is using the material-witness law. Mr. Mayfield was never charged with a crime, nor would any reasonable prosecutor have brought charges based on what the government knew -- or thought it knew -- about him. Rather, like many people since Sept. 11, 2001, he was held under a law that permits the detention, under court supervision, of people with evidence relevant to a court proceeding or grand jury inquiry who might flee if left at large. The law is not new, but its aggressive use at the investigative stage of high-profile cases is. In some instances, the Justice Department's use of it has smacked of preventive detention. The secrecy surrounding these cases makes a thorough assessment impossible. In Mr. Mayfield's case, the government's use of the law allowed the detention and public smearing of a man against whom the government was not prepared to make a case and whom it now concedes to be innocent. "