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Friday, December 01, 2006

Exonerated Madrid Bombing Suspect was Wrongly Investigated Before the Crime

Yesterday, Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield settled a suit against the FBI for nearly $2 million. Mayfield, a convert to Islam, was falsely linked by the FBI to the 2004 train bombings in Madrid. The FBI said that Mayfield was the victim of fingerprint error. As a result, he was falsely arrested. He may also have been falsely investigated -- before the event he was suspected of playing a part in -- but more on that later.

FBI Press Release:

Soon after the submitted fingerprint was associated with Mr. Mayfield, Spanish authorities alerted the FBI to additional information that cast doubt on our findings. As a result, the FBI sent two fingerprint examiners to Madrid, who compared the image the FBI had been provided to the image the Spanish authorities had.

Upon review it was determined that the FBI identification was based on an image of substandard quality, which was particularly problematic because of the remarkable number of points of similarity between Mr. Mayfield's prints and the print details in the images submitted to the FBI.

What a coincidence! What are the odds that a bad scan would show a "remarkable number of points of similarity" to a muslim in Oregon? The odds would suggest a match to an innocent Christian, wouldn't they? After all, computerized fingerprint analysis is estimated to be 99% accurate -- and you'd think that that estimate would factor in bad scans.

I've mentioned a theory I have about the thought processes of the right more than once, but it bears repeating here. Many conservatives seem to begin with an assumption, then find reasons to believe it. That's the thought process that allows for the denial of evolution and global warming. It also explains why so much of what we were told about Iraq before the war turned out to be flat out false after the war began -- the Niger yellowcake claims, for example. If we take the neocons at their word and assume they believed what they told us, we have to conclude that they were convinced of ties to terrorism and WMD by really flimsy and easily disproved evidence. This is exactly what you'd expect if someone were to start with a false assumption. They'd tried to find evidence to support their belief and discount evidence contrary to it. Since the assumption is false, the contrary evidence would prove to be better than the supporting evidence.

Mayfield himself gives us a reason to believe that he was the victim of this bass-ackward thinking.

Democracy Now!:

JUAN GONZALEZ: And for many of our listeners and viewers who are not familiar with your case, could you go through what happened initially, your initial contact with the FBI, and what were the circumstances around your arrest?

BRANDON MAYFIELD: Well, initially, my family and I, Mona and I, were suspicious that we were being followed, monitored, surveilled, if you will, actually even before the Madrid, Spain bombing. And that was back in March of 2004. And in April of that year, we were actually seeing telltale signs that somebody had been in our house that had burglarized our home, such as doors that were left unbolted -- that is, where we would lock the bottom lock and not bolt it, we would come home and find the bolt locked. Blinds that were left closed, we would come back and find them partially opened. And even freshly vacuumed carpets, we would find footprints in the house that, by custom, we didn’t wear shoes in the home. So that’s our unofficial contact with the FBI. And that created a great deal of paranoia, fear and suspicion, even before I was actually arrested on May 6 of 2004.

That's a pretty good trick; being a suspect in the Madrid bombings before they happened. It looks like they believed that Mayfield was a terrorist, then set out to find some terrorist act he was responsible for. Not exactly the Sherlock Holmes school of detective work. More like the Dick Cheney school.

How many people are in custody right now, based on such lousy evidence and crappy logic? And, perhaps more importantly, what's happening to them?

It's impossible to even guess at an answer to the first question, but the case of Maher Arar gives us an glimpse at the answer to the second. Arar was an innocent canadian citizen who was picked up by US authorities at JFK, shipped off to Syria, and tortured. The period of time between his abduction and his release was 374 days.

Democracy Now!:

On Monday [Sept. 18, 2006], the Canadian government admitted for the first time that Arar was a completely innocent man. Justice Dennis O'Connor released the findings of a two-year major investigation into the disappearance of Arar. The judge wrote, "I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada."

The official inquiry said that there is no evidence that Canadian officials played a direct role in his detention or deportation. However Justice O'Connor found that the U.S. government's decision to send Arar to Syria was likely based on inaccurate and misleading information provided by Canadian authorities. The judge also criticized the Bush administration's actions. The judge wrote, "They removed him to Syria against his wishes and in the face of his statements that he would be tortured if sent there."

It wouldn't be as accurate to say that Arar was shipped to Syria despite the fact that he'd be tortured as it would be to say that it was because of the fact that he'd be tortured. This is monstrous and believing that Arar's an isolated case is more than likely wishful thinking.

The Bush administration is dangerous and criminal -- slightly less dangerous after the midterms, but no less criminal. When did we become this? All the lousy evidence, the lazy thinking, and the unamerican cowardice begins and ends in the White House.


And this is cowardice. For the Bush administration and the officials who support them, the cowardice is political. For the people who vote for these dicks, the cowardice is personal. No crime is too heinous, no abuse is too inhuman, no injustice is too egregious if these people are still scared. As a result, freedom and liberty are meaningless to them -- someone too frightened to leave their basement doesn't appreciate sunlight.

They'll talk about freedom and liberty, they'll wrap themselves up in the flag and declare themselves 'true patriots', they'll even remind you of everyone who's fought and died for freedom. And that makes them hypocrites and fools, as well as cowards. No one died at Normandy hoping that the government would kidnap people. People didn't die at Gettysburg so the government could torture people. These people aren't patriots, they're the opposite. They have no love of freedom, other than their own. Even Saddam Hussein loved his own freedom -- he just didn't give a damn about anyone else's.

If we allow this sort of thinking -- the bass-ackward 'conclusion before evidence' reasoning -- we're headed for disaster. Hell, we're already in a disaster called Iraq. But the disaster we face comes from home, not abroad.

Our greatest threat isn't terrorism. Al Qaeda's just a rinky-dink cult -- it's not a worldwide menace like SPECTOR in James Bond movies. We've faced much more dangerous enemies, enemies who were actually capable of taking our freedom -- the nazis, the soviets. We keep being told that terrorists want to take away our freedom, but no one ever explains the scenario where they actually accomplish this impossible task. How does it happen? Do they blow a bunch of stuff up and we surrender? After 9/11, no one said, "We'd better cave in to terrorists!" Democracy won't end because planes crashed or bombs exploded. Democracy will end because we gave it up.

So, if the terrorists want to take our freedom, why are we so busy giving it up all on our own? The paranoid and delusional are running the show and they don't give a damn about freedom or democracy or liberty. All they care about is safety. And, if the paranoid and delusional don't have a realistic conception of danger, then they don't have a realistic conception of safety. It's possible to be both safe and sorry.

Beside, as I've said before, how safe can you be when the government can kidnap and torture you without a trial? It can happen to anyone, any time. As Maher Arar shows us, you don't have to be an american for the US government to take your freedom and, as Brandon Mayfield demonstrates, being an american doesn't help any either.


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