A Fuzzy Fingerprint Leaves a Lasting Mark

Today's Los Angeles Times has an interesting article and interview with Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon lawyer mistakenly taken into custody in connection with the Madrid train bombings:

Mayfield described himself as a very private person, and said that the only reason he was talking was to raise the public's awareness of such laws as the material witness statute, under which he was detained.

The statute, much used since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, allows the government to indefinitely detain people considered to have relevant testimony to an investigation. In some cases, the government has used the statute to hold suspects while investigators build cases against them.

He said he also wanted to call attention to investigative techniques such as "sneak and peek" searches, which let agents search a house without telling the owner. The Patriot Act allows such searches, and the Mayfields strongly suspect that their home was searched twice.

The article continues: "As for the FBI apology, Mayfield said he accepted and commended it, but that it didn't fix his life or the lives of others whose civil liberties have been violated."

I think it's commendable that the FBI discovered and admitted its mistake in Mayfield's case, but that doesn't solve the problem. How many others like Mayfield may be out there, in cases where the FBI has not discovered (or admitted) similar errors?