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The Justice Department’s watchdog office is investigating whether the anti-terror Patriot Act was used improperly to arrest an Oregon lawyer in connection with terror bombings in Spain based on faulty FBI fingerprint analysis. The case of Brandon Mayfield is among three new investigations by the department’s inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, into potential civil rights or civil liberties violations by the Justice Department. The cases involve acts against Muslims, Arabs or other groups considered vulnerable to backlash in the war on terror. Mayfield, a Muslim convert, was arrested May 6 on a material witness warrant after an FBI analysis concluded his fingerprint matched one found on a bag containing detonators like those used in March attacks on trains in Madrid that killed nearly 200 people and wounded 2,000. A few weeks later, Mayfield was released after the FBI admitted it had made a mistake, and the fingerprint did not match Mayfield’s. The Mayfield investigation was disclosed Monday in a report to Congress. It is focused on how the fingerprint error was made and on a complaint by Mayfield that the “FBI inappropriately conducted a surreptitious search of his home … potentially motivated by his Muslim faith and ties to the Muslim community,” according to Fine’s report. No other details were disclosed on potential misuse of the Patriot Act, which was passed by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to give the government broader surveillance and prosecution powers to use against terrorists. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said the Mayfield matter shows the secrecy used in terrorism investigations can be excessive, leading to detention of many innocent people and improper secret searches of their homes. “What this tells us is that, without open and accountable government, we will never know how many people had their rights violated by federal agents and how many people are held without charges today,” Conyers said. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility also is investigating actions of prosecutors in the Mayfield case. Attempts to reach Mayfield and his attorney Monday by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful. The report stems from a provision of the Patriot Act that authorizes the inspector general to review complaints about civil liberties and civil rights abuses involving Justice Department personnel. The latest report, including the Mayfield case, covers the period between Dec. 16, 2003, and June 21, 2004. During that time, the inspector general received 1,613 such complaints, very few of which required investigation. Almost 1,000 of the complaints did not cite an improper action by a Justice Department employee or included farfetched claims, such as that the government was interfering with a person’s thoughts or pumping poisonous gas into someone’s home. Another 410 were incidents involving personnel from government agencies not under the inspector general’s jurisdiction. Of the remaining 208 complaints, only 13 were determined to warrant further review, among them the Mayfield case. Another new case involves allegations by four people of Arab descent who say they were improperly detained by the FBI while trying to enter the United States. They alleged they were handcuffed, taken to an FBI office for questioning and “subjected to unnecessary humiliation,” the report said. The third new case involves an Egyptian man, detained by the FBI after the Sept. 11 attacks, who says he was denied access to an attorney and given promises of release only if he would submit to a lie-detector test. Ten cases were referred to other agencies for investigation. Seven involved complaints that Bureau of Prisons officials verbally abused Muslim inmates, denied them special foods, kept them segregated for no reason and denied them family visits. Several cases were closed during the six-month period: � Investigators could not substantiate claims by an inmate that a Bureau of Prisons warden had threatened to “gas inmates of Middle Eastern ancestry” if war should break out between the United States and countries in the Middle East. � Prosecutors refused to bring civil rights charges in a case in which five immigration detainees claimed that county jail guards assaulted them, denied them access to a law library and played “America the Beautiful” over the intercom at night. � An Arab-American man recanted his claims that the FBI conducted an illegal search of his home, stole items and planted drugs there after failing to link him to terrorism. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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