WASHINGTON — The Justice Department's watchdog office is investigating whether the Patriot Act was used improperly to arrest an Oregon lawyer in connection with terrorist bombings in Spain based on faulty FBI fingerprint analysis.
The case of Brandon Mayfield is among several 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 others considered vulnerable to backlash in the war on terrorism.
Mayfield, a Muslim convert, was arrested May 6 on a material witness warrant after an FBI analysis concluded that his fingerprint matched one found on a bag containing detonators like those used in the March attacks on trains in Madrid that killed nearly 200 people.
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.