Tuesday, May 25, 2004


A fellow lawyer was treated to two weeks of imprisonment courtesy of the utter incompetence of the FBI. Misread fingerprints led to the arrest of Brandon Mayfield, despite the fact that Spanish authorities were telling the FBI he was the wrong guy. Instead, the Freaking Bumbling Idiots focused on the fact that he attended a mosque and had dealings with an Islamic charity "with suspected terrorist ties." (Given the irrational level of scrutiny everything Islamic is facing, are there any Islamic charities WITHOUT "suspected terrorist ties?!)

What's particularly galling, though, is that the FBI used the Patriot Act to secretly invade the privacy of Brandon Mayfield's entire family, and screwed up a simple search! "Under a provision of the U.S. Patriot Act, they entered his home without his knowledge — but aroused the family’s suspicion by bolting the wrong lock on their way out and leaving a footprint on the rug that didn’t match any family members.

During a later raid, FBI agents took Mayfield’s computers, modem, safe deposit key, assorted papers, as well as copies of the Quran and what they classified as “Spanish documents” — apparently Spanish homework by one of Mayfield’s sons."

If you think that something like this cannot happen to you, you are wrong. We are living in a time of fear, and our government is eager to "protect" us - no matter the cost.

Update: Upon further reflection, I realize that this post paints the FBI with a broad brush. I want to acknowledge that the vast majority of FBI agents, and particularly the one in my book club, are highly competent people with good judgment - the dunces on the Mayfield case are not typical. I also realized that this post may be unfair to even those individuals, since it points out mistakes made in one secret search. Who knows how many thousands of secret searches they have successfully pulled off in the homes of innocent people? They may have already been in your home, and you just don't know it.


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