Oregon Attorney Arrested Over Possible Tie to Spain Bombings
Fri May 7, 7:55 AM ET Add Top Stories - Los Angeles Times to My Yahoo!
By Richard B. Schmitt, Mark Z. Barabak and Sebastian Rotella Times Staff Writers
ALOHA, Ore. — A Portland lawyer was detained Thursday by the FBI (news - web sites) after federal officials linked his fingerprint to bomb-related evidence associated with the Madrid railway attacks that killed 191 people in March, a federal law enforcement official said.
The arrest of Brandon Mayfield, 37, raises the possibility of a U.S. connection to the March 11 bombings, which Spanish authorities have blamed on Islamic extremists.
The former Army officer, a Muslim convert, was held on a material-witness warrant after the FBI searched his home in the Portland suburb of Aloha. Mayfield's arrest was first reported Thursday on Newsweek magazine's website.
He has not been charged with any crime, and the federal official stressed that the investigation was continuing and is in many ways preliminary. Spanish officials cautioned earlier this week that they did not consider the fingerprint evidence to be conclusive.
Material-witness warrants are used by the government to hold people suspected of having direct knowledge about a crime or to give agents more time to investigate.
A native of Coos Bay, Ore., Mayfield is married and has three children. He converted to Islam in 1989 and attends a mosque in Beaverton, Ore., that also was searched by FBI agents Thursday. His military record was unavailable Thursday night.
Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Portland, confirmed that two search warrants were served Thursday in Washington County, which includes Aloha, but declined to comment further.
Outside Mayfield's home, a small white clapboard structure in a working-class neighborhood 10 miles west of downtown Portland, TV news crews and curiosity seekers gathered as word of the arrest spread.
Neighbors described Mayfield family members, who have lived in Aloha for about 2 1/2 years, as courteous and hard-working. One said Mayfield was outside tending his tomato patch Thursday morning before the FBI arrived. Other than someone peering through the blinds, no one responded to knocks on the door seeking comment.
Roy and Arlene Witt, both 71, who live next door, recalled having a chicken dinner at the Mayfield residence. The evening began when the Mayfields sent one of their daughters over with a written invitation. Once the guests arrived, they found the house so sparsely furnished that the hosts sat on the floor.
"He's just a hard-working American man, father and husband, as far as I know," Roy Witt said.
Mayfield's brother Kent, reached at his home in Halstead, Kan., told Reuters that his brother was a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy but no terrorist.
"I think the reason they are holding him is because he is of the Muslim faith and because he is not super happy with the Bush administration," the brother said. "So if that's a crime, well, you can burn half of us."
Mayfield also had an indirect link to the "Portland Seven" terrorism case brought by the Justice Department (news - web sites) last year.
He had served as a child-custody lawyer for one of the defendants, Jeffrey Battle, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to wage war against the United States.
Other defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges of conspiring to support Al Qaeda and Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s former Taliban rulers.
The FBI's interest in Mayfield stems from a fingerprint that turned up on a bag containing detonators and other bomb-related equipment left in the bombers' stolen van found at the Alcala de Henares train station outside Madrid hours after the bombings.
The fingerprint was among the physical evidence that Spanish investigators shared with a special FBI evidence analysis team that traveled to Madrid to assist with the case, according to Spanish and U.S. investigators.
The FBI "document exploitation" team compared the evidence with past terrorism cases and discovered the potential match between one of the numerous fingerprints found in the van and a U.S. citizen with military experience who was already under investigation for suspected terrorist activity.
FBI sources said one of the fingerprints matched Mayfield's. There had been no previous indication that Mayfield had been under investigation for suspected terrorist activity.
The discovery intrigued investigators because of the possible involvement of a U.S. military veteran, a rare figure in Al Qaeda cases, and the suspicion that he could have played a significant role in the plot.
Unlike previous Al Qaeda plots, none of the suspects accused of planting the bombs is known to have trained at the terrorist network's camps in Afghanistan. Spanish police think someone with explosives experience helped the attackers build the bombs at a tumbledown cottage outside Madrid.
The American fits the profile of such a potential lead bomb-maker or trainer, along with two Moroccan fugitives who are hard-core Al Qaeda-trained veterans and potential "field commanders" of the bombing cell, investigators said.
Twelve suspects have been jailed in Spain and a number of others are free but facing indictment. Seven more suspected bombers died last month in a confrontation at an explosives-filled hideout surrounded by police when they blew themselves up.
A senior Spanish investigator told the Los Angeles Times three weeks ago that a fingerprint found in the investigation of the train bombings resembled the fingerprint of a man described as a "U.S. military veteran" wanted by U.S. agents in connection with Islamic terrorism.
In subsequent days, two high-ranking Spanish police officials and a U.S. law enforcement official confirmed to The Times that the lead, involving a U.S. veteran connected to Al Qaeda, was being pursued. The veteran was someone who had been under investigation by U.S. agents for some time, the investigators said.
The lead intrigued Spanish investigators because they thought an operative with knowledge of explosives or military expertise helped the team of mostly Moroccan suspects build the remote-control bombs that were used in the March 11 attacks, which killed 191 people aboard four commuter trains and helped bring down the ruling party in national elections three days later.
But as recently as Monday, two Spanish police officials said the lead remained inconclusive.
"The American has the profile of an expert who could have supervised the bomb-making," a high-ranking Spanish police official said. "And obviously he's someone the Americans are very concerned about because of his background. But we are told the fingerprint match is not conclusive. We can't say right now that it is the same person."
Terror arrest: Brandon Mayfield's family waits for answers
Sunday May 16, 2004
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI
Associated Press Writer
ALOHA, Ore. (AP) After the FBI agents left, Mona Mayfield wept at her kitchen table, then pulled herself together to survey the ransacked rooms. Closets had been emptied and drawers upturned.
``They took my children's Spanish homework,'' she said, a week after authorities arrested her husband, Brandon Mayfield, in connection with Spain's worst terrorist attack.
Mona Mayfield and other family members have been waiting to learn the fate of Brandon Mayfield, a Portland attorney and convert to Islam taken into custody at his suburban law office on May 6.
Although Mona Mayfield said her husband has not been out of the country since the 1990s, officials said his fingerprint were found on a plastic bag in a van near the Alcala de Henares train station outside Madrid.
The bag contained detonators that officials said were the same kind as those used to blow up four commuter trains in the Spanish capital on March 11, killing 191 people and injuring 2,000 others.
Eighteen people have been charged six with mass murder and the rest with belonging to a terrorist organization. Mayfield is the only American with links to the bombings, although he has not been charged with a crime.
Mayfield's family insists he is innocent. To them, the missing Spanish homework shows that federal agents are desperate to find evidence. ``They can turn anyone into a terrorist,'' Mona Mayfield said.
A former Army officer, Brandon Mayfield has not been outside the United States since serving at Air Force Base in Germany in the 1990s, she said.
According to senior law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, the FBI is convinced the fingerprint in Madrid is Mayfield's.
Spanish officials and U.S. counterterrorism experts have raised doubts.
Three days after Mayfield's arrest, forensic experts in Spain told the newspaper El Pais that they found only eight points of similarity between the print on the plastic bag and Mayfield's far less than the 15 required for an exact match.
Senior U.S. law enforcement officials said Mayfield had been under surveillance for several weeks before his arrest. When it became clear that news about him might leak, the Justice Department placed him in custody, officials said.
It was a move that raised red flags for counterterrorism expert Michael Greenberger, a former U.S. Department of Justice official.
``The fact that they are using the material witness statute shows they don't have probable cause to arrest him,'' said Greenberger, who now heads the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security. ``They're scrambling to find a way to detain him.''
Under the material witness statute, prosecutors can seek an arrest warrant and hold an individual without filing charges if the witness' testimony is considered crucial and there is a reasonable risk of the witness fleeing.
In the Bush administration's war on terror, the statute has been used to detain possible terror suspects without filing charges.
Nearby Portland has its own example one that proved doubters of an earlier terrorism investigation here wrong.
Mike Hawash, a former Intel software engineer, was arrested and held for five weeks without being charged. His case led to a public outcry and a ``Free Mike Hawash'' campaign.
However, six months later, Hawash pleaded guilty to conspiracy to wage war against the United States, as did five others accused of planning to help the Taliban fight American forces.
Mayfield has ties to Jeffrey Battle, one of the six, whom he represented in a custody hearing involving his child. Family members say a local mosque approached Mayfield, asking him to take the case.
Quanell X, head of the New Black Muslim Movement in Houston and a Battle family friend, said Mayfield went out of his way to help Battle, flying to Texas, on his own money to represent the terrorism suspect in the child custody dispute.
Mayfield had converted to Islam after marrying Mona, a Muslim who immigrated to rural Washington as a child.
Mayfield's mother, AvNell, and his younger brother have taken a leave of absence from their jobs in Kansas to be with Mona. The Mayfields' three children, ages 10, 12 and 15, have been provided security at their local schools.
``Either charge him, so he can defend himself, or set him free,'' said Kent Mayfield, 35, the attorney's brother. ``In the meantime, peoples' lives are being destroyed.''
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
[b]Mike Hawash, a former Intel software engineer, was arrested and held for five weeks without being charged. His case led to a public outcry and a ``Free Mike Hawash'' campaign.[/b]
Now this is an interesting point. People cry about the patriot act. Hippy freaks are out in the streets screaming free hawash. His rights are being violated. The ACLU got involved. The end result is that the US Government got a terrorist cell off the streets.
I'm not surprised that the muslim convert was involved with terrorism in Portland. It just goes to the point of the Relegion itself being inherintly evil.