Lawyer wrongly accused in Madrid bombings back in court over Patriot Act

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The lawyer whom the FBI wrongly accused in the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombings was in court Monday to urge a judge to strike down provisions of the USA Patriot Act that helped investigators conduct what he says were unconstitutional searches of his home and office.

Brandon Mayfield settled part of his case against the federal government for $2 million in November but was allowed to continue to pursue his challenge of the Patriot Act. He says the government is continuing to violate his civil rights by retaining thousands of copied pages of his family's personal information.

Mayfield was arrested May 6, 2004, after a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators in Madrid was incorrectly matched to him.

Before the arrest, federal authorities searched Mayfield's Portland-area home and law office, going through files and placing bugging devices in the home.

Mayfield was held in prison for two weeks before he was released, and he received a formal apology from the FBI. He contends he was unfairly targeted because he is a convert to Islam.

The 2001 Patriot Act greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism, both domestically and abroad.

Mayfield's lawyers, Portland attorney Elden Rosenthal and Wyoming counsel Gerry Spence, argued Monday that the authority the Patriot Act grants is an assault on the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, without probable cause, determined by a judge, to believe that a crime has been committed.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken said she intends to rule shortly.

Last week in New York, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero struck down a part of the law that allowed the FBI to demand records without the level of court supervision required for other government searches. His ruling, which the judge stayed in anticipation of an appeal, said Congress had overstepped its boundaries in approving the Patriot Act at the expense of individual liberties.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Mayfield, 41, said his family has continued to press the case because "we believe in the right of a person to feel safe and secure in their home, in the balance between security and liberty."

Lawyers for the Justice Department have contended that Mayfield's case could not legally continue after the $2 million settlement was announced in November.

Jeffrey Bucholtz, a deputy assistant attorney general, also argued Monday that the constitutionality of the Patriot Act's provisions had been upheld by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a federal court charged with overseeing requests from the FBI and others for warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents.

As for the government's continued retention of copied documents related to the Mayfield case, Bucholtz said there was "no imminent likely future injury" to the family from the government's holding of the documents.