I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Bush administration and denial of habeas corpus and due process rights

In light of the environment in which we live -- not only how inept and authoritarian the Bush administration is, but also how rabid and blindly loyal their followers are -- it is hard to overstate how pernicious is the abolition of habeas corpus rights for detainees in U.S. custody:

New York Times, today:

The federal government agreed to pay $2 million Wednesday to an Oregon lawyer wrongly jailed in connection with the 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid, and it issued a formal apology to him and his family.

The unusual settlement caps a two-and-a-half-year ordeal that saw the lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, go from being a suspected terrorist operative to a symbol, in the eyes of his supporters, of government overzealousness in the war on terrorism.

“The United States of America apologizes to Mr. Brandon Mayfield and his family for the suffering caused” by his mistaken arrest, the government’s apology began. It added that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which erroneously linked him to the Madrid bombs through a fingerprinting mistake, had taken steps “to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mayfield and the Mayfield family does not happen again.” . . .

“The days, weeks and months following my arrest,” he said, “were some of the darkest we have had to endure. I personally was subject to lockdown, strip searches, sleep deprivation, unsanitary living conditions, shackles and chains, threats, physical pain and humiliation.”

Despite doubts from Spanish officials about the validity of the fingerprint match, American officials began an aggressive high-level investigation into Mr. Mayfield in the weeks after the bombings. . . .

Using expanded surveillance powers under the USA Patriot Act, the government wiretapped his conversations, conducted secret searches of his home and his law office and jailed him for two weeks as a material witness in the case before a judge threw out the case against him.

Typical breathless television report at the time:

MAXINE McKEW: An American lawyer has been detained for alleged involvement in the Madrid train bombings.The fingerprints of Brandon Mayfield, a United States citizen who converted to Islam, have reportedly been found on materials related to the bombings.He can now be held indefinitely in the US without formal charges. Stephen McDonell reports.

STEPHEN McDONELL: When a series of bombs were detonated on Madrid trains in March, 191 commuters were killed and 2,000 injured.In Spain, 18 people have been charged in relation to the blasts, six with mass murder.Islamic fundamentalists are accused of carrying out the bloody attacks but now the list of suspects has stretched as far as the US.

Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield converted to Islam in 1989. He's tonight being held by US officials, suspected of involvement with the Madrid bombings.FBI agents raided his home, taking computer equipment and his wife's credit cards.

AURORA McCANN, WITNESS: It's horrifying, it's absolutely horrifying.

Charles Johnson, Little Green Footballs, May 7, 2004:

More information on the Oregon lawyer, a convert to Islam, who was arrested yesterday after his fingerprints were apparently found on a container related to the Madrid train bombings: Oregon Lawyer Arrested in Madrid Bombings. . . .

But if you really want the full scoop on Mayfield and his pernicious activities, the LGF lizardoids have unearthed a treasure trove of information in this topic: Madrid
Bombing Probe Reaches Portland
. Mayfield’s “mentor,” Tom Nelson, is a key figure in the International Solidarity Movement, and they are both heavily involved in pro-Palestinian groups.

Among the "treasure trove of information" uncovered by the "LGF lizardoids":

* Multnomah County Public Library in Portland: Home of the Iraqi Resistance Solidarity Network.

* Mr. Mayfield is the recipient of the "material witness" statute of the Patriot Act which means the government can hold him without charges, without representation similar to Jose Padilla.

* ... Tom Nelson, Portland Attorney and co-founder of Americans United for Palestinian Rights, who traveled in August to Palestine as part of an international (sic) ...

* Mayfield converted to Islam in 1989. He's also a former Army Officer. He's 37 years old.Do you suppose that Mayfield served in Gulf War I? Perhaps in Saudi Arabia with the arrested Wahabist financier Almoudi when a lot of the conversions were taking place?

* WOW! I've MET this guy! He came and talked to our club meeting in November 2001! At the time he was living in Newport, Oregon on the Coast. His wife is an Egyptian woman. He was here by invitation to tell us a little bit about Islam after the Trade Tower Attacks He spent most of his time explaining that Islam is a "religion of peace" and that "Islam" means submission. Of course, we also heard about how "jihad" is an internal struggle, etc, etc.

Charles Johnson, May 25, 2004 (even after the FBI released Mayfield and apologized):

Apologizing has become very fashionable for US government agencies; even the FBI is doing it now: FBI Apologizes to Lawyer Over Madrid Case. . . .

And his claim that he was “targeted because of his faith” seems to leave out the little inconvenient fact that he was linked to one of the chief defendants in the “Portland Seven” jihad group [ed: "linked" meaning he represented him as a lawyer in a child custody case], whose surviving six members pled guilty to all charges. In other words, with a fingerprint match and this connection, there was reason for suspicion; Mayfield wasn’t picked at random out of a list of Muslims.

Daniel Pipes, June 1, 2004, New York Sun:

But did U.S. law enforcement err in noting Mr. Mayfield 's identity? No, this was entirely appropriate. It would have been myopic to ignore Mr. Mayfield 's many connections to militant Islam and the global jihad, including:

* "He prayed in the same Bilal Mosque as did several individuals . . . who pleaded guilty in 2003 to conspiring to help the Taliban";

* While studying law at Washburn University in Kansas, Mr. Mayfield helped organize a branch of the Muslim Student Association, a group described by analyst Jonathan Dowd-Gailey as "an overtly political organization" espousing "Wahhabism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism … and expressing solidarity with militant Islamic ideologies, sometimes with criminal results."

* Mr. Mayfield 's political profile fits that of many disaffected, America-hating terrorists: he strongly opposes the Patriot Act, inveighs against American foreign policy related to Muslim countries, and is "particularly angered," according to his brother Kent, by close U.S. relations with Israel. Mr. Mayfield speculates that the Bush administration knew in advance about 9/11 but chose to let the attacks go ahead so as to justify going to war. And on his release from custody, he compared the U.S. federal government to Nazi Germany.

New York Post Editorial, May 11, 2004 (sub. rq'd):

To hear acquaintances tell it, there is absolutely no way Brandon Mayfield could have had anything to do with the bombings in Madrid in March. . . .

Nonetheless, officials did the right thing by acting quickly. They need to get to the bottom of this case fast.

Yes, some of the evidence that's been made public so far seems circumstantial.

Mayfield is a convert to Islam who married an Egyptian woman. He attends a mosque frequented by some of the members of the Portland Seven, a suspected terrorist cell. And he defended one of its members, Jeffrey Battle, in a child-custody case; Battle later pleaded guilty to seeking to join the Taliban in 2001. . . .

Certainly, the idea of a Fifth Column here cannot be discounted, post-9/11. Several cells - the one in Portland; others in Buffalo and elsewhere - have been uncovered in the past few years.

Stephen Schwartz on David Horowitz's Front Page, titled "Our Internal Islamist Enemies", May 13, 2004:

While the attention of most Americans, and much of the Islamic world, has been focused on the scandal of American soldiers' conduct at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, other events signal a deepening and dangerous crisis for American society and its relationship to Muslims who live within the borders of the U.S.

One such development is the detention on Thursday, May 6, of Brandon Mayfield, a 37-year old lawyer from Portland, Ore., as a possible material witness or "person of interest" in the conspiracy to perpetrate the horrific Madrid metro bombings of March 11.

Mayfield, who became a Muslim after marrying an Egyptian woman in 1989, now joins the list of "new Muslims" (a term Muslims consider preferable to "convert") who have become notorious to Americans since the thin, bedraggled John Walker Lindh, barely out of his teens, was pulled from the battlefield of Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan late in 2001. A soldier in the Taliban, Lindh shocked an America that never before knew such types even existed. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Then came José Padilla, a former gang member and petty criminal in his early 30s, and an associate of various Islamic extremists, held as a "dirty bomb" plotter, and
therefore as an enemy combatant, for the past two years. . . . .

And now comes Mayfield, whose fingerprint may have been identified on a plastic bag containing detonators found in Spain after the atrocity there. Mayfield had
represented Portland Seven member Battle in a child custody case when the latter was arrested.

Mayfield's biography includes other troubling items. As a law student at Washburn University, in Topeka, Kan., he helped organize a branch of the Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), which was set up by agents of Saudi Arabia's official Islamic clerical establishment to propagate the extremist doctrines of Wahhabism. . . . .

As so often these days, media find ordinary Americans anxious to swear to the normality of Brandon Mayfield -- just as other reporters in other heartland communities found relatives and friends that sprang to declare the soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib to be nice people. However, Mayfield's relatives appeared awfully anxious to declare the case to have proven the USA Patriot Act a failure; their response was not exactly nonideological.

So, in addition to the botched fingerprint analysis, that was the "evidence" Bush followers continued to cite even after it was clear that Mayfield was completely innocent -- he converted to Islam, had an Egyptian wife, prayed at a "suspect" mosque, started a Muslim group in college, opposed the Patriot Act, criticized the Leader in harsh terms, represented an Islamic militant as a lawyer in a child custody case, believes that the U.S. is too closely aligned with Israel, and advocates for Palestinians.

Based on that, if they had their way, he would still be locked up, alongside Jose Padilla, waterboarded and kept nice and incommunacado where he belongs. And that is precisely what the Military Commissions Act allows, at least with regard to all foreigners and alien residents. And it remains to be seen what effect the Act will have on U.S. citizens.

An argument can be made that Mayfield was only exonerated because the Spanish government was objecting so vociferously to the accusations against Mayfield by the Bush administration -- accusations which were, of course, repeatedly brushed aside because they came from know-nothing, whiny, pro-terrorist-rights Europeans. Particularly in this climate, given the mindset of Bush officials and their followers, the very idea that this administration -- really, any administration -- ought to be trusted with the power to detain people forever with no judicial review is so heinous that no protest against it is really sufficient.

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