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Lawyer wrongly arrested in bombings: 'We lived in 1984'

Story Highlights

Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield says he was constantly watched
"We lived in '1984,' " he said, referring to George Orwell's novel
• Mayfield was falsely arrested for taking part in the 2004 Madrid train bombings
• Mayfield settled false arrest suit against the government for $2 million
From Henry Schuster and Terry Frieden
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PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday it is paying $2 million and apologizing to an Oregon lawyer wrongly accused of being involved with the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Spain.

Brandon Mayfield was arrested in Portland on a material witness warrant in May 2004, less than two months after the bombings.

According to an FBI affidavit at the time, his fingerprint was identified as being on a blue plastic bag containing detonators found in a van used by the bombers.

The FBI's fingerprint identification was wrong, however, and Mayfield was released several days later.

The bombings of four commuter trains March 11, 2004, killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.

Mayfield charged he was a victim of profiling because the Portland-area attorney was a Muslim convert.

He and his family later sued the U.S. government for damages.

"We lived in 1984," Mayfield told reporters Wednesday. "I'm talking about the George Orwell, frightening brave new world in which Big Brother is constantly watching you." (Watch Mayfield discuss the case Video)

"I, myself, have dark memories of stifling paranoia, of being monitored, followed, watched, tracked," he said, choking back emotion.

"I've been surveilled, followed, targeted primarily because I've been an outspoken critic of this administration and doing my job to defend others who can't defend themselves, to give them their day in court, and mostly for being a Muslim."

The government refused, he said, to tell him where they put their cameras and surveillance devices, leaving his family wondering if their private conversations and intimate moments were on display.

"The days and weeks and months following my arrest were some of the hardest and darkest that myself and my family have ever had to endure," he said.

"And all because of this government's ill-conceived war on terror. ... What I really want is for this not to happen to anyone else."

Wednesday's settlement includes not only a $2 million payment and an apology, but also an agreement by the government to destroy communications intercepts conducted by the FBI against Mayfield's home and office during the investigation.

The written apology reads:

"The United States of America apologizes to Mr. Brandon Mayfield and his family for the suffering caused by the FBI's misidentification of Mr. Mayfield's fingerprint and the resulting investigation of Mr. Mayfield, including his arrest as a material witness in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the execution of search warrants and other court orders in the Mayfield family home and in Mr. Mayfield's law office."

A Justice Department statement released Wednesday said Mayfield was not targeted because of his Muslim faith and that the FBI had taken steps to improve its fingerprint identification process "to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mayfield does not happen again."

"Mr. Mayfield and his family felt it was in their best interest to get on with their lives," said Mayfield's attorney, Elden Rosenthal.

"No amount of money can compensate Mr. Mayfield for being held as a prisoner and being told he faced the death penalty [for the Madrid bombings]."

Mayfield said his suit was not about money.

"It's about regaining our civil rights, our freedom and most important, our privacy," he said.

He and his attorneys said the settlement will allow him to continue the portion of his lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act.

Mayfield contends that his home was searched under provisions of the Patriot Act.



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