Spence: $2M settlement
underscores loss of freedom
Jackson attorney battles FBI, big government, Patriot
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr
Hole News" -- -- Fresh from winning a
$2 million settlement in a suit against the FBI for
wrongly tying an Oregon lawyer to the Madrid bombing
case, Jackson Hole attorney Gerry Spence warned Tuesday
of growing fascism in America.
Spence was the lead attorney in a case brought by Oregon
lawyer Brandon Mayfield against the FBI for his arrest
in the case that saw 191 people killed in Spain. The FBI
began investigating Mayfield after computers said his
fingerprints came close to matching a print found on a
bag containing explosive detonators connected to the
March 11, 2004, bombing.
Mayfield announced the settlement last week in Portland,
Ore., but the flamboyant Spence has been missing from
many of the news reports of the incident. He spoke in a
telephone interview from his home in Jackson Hole,
cautioning against the government and corporations
consolidating increasing power.
“It’s a very frightening time in our country,” said
Spence, who has made a career championing the cases of
the common man and underdogs. “What happens is that the
corporate king, or the government-corporate king, the
two combined, [are] leading us into fascism.”
As part of the settlement, Spence secured an apology
from the FBI and will be able to continue a case
challenging the Patriot Act. He said, however, that the
mainstream media is shunning his warnings and that even
a Congressional committee dis-invited him from
testifying about the Patriot Act once majority members
learned what he would say.
Spence said the Mayfield story begins when the FBI
received a copy of the print through Interpol, the
international police agency, and used a computer to
compare it to those it had on file. Among the prints in
its database were Mayfield’s, on file since his service
in the military.
“Out popped 20 potential matches that now need to be
viewed individually by the expert,” Spence said of the
computer’s work. Mayfield’s was the fourth-best match,
but he shot to the top of the list, Spence said.
“What we have here is a Muslim card that was played,”
He characterized Mayfield as “a Kansas farm boy who
married an Egyptian woman.” Mayfield converted to Islam.
“In their papers for the arrest of Mayfield, they allege
he had represented a known Muslim terrorist,” Spence
said. “In fact, his representation was only on a child
custody matter. They arrested him primarily because he
was a Muslim.”
Before the arrest, however, the FBI investigated the
“They got a secret warrant and secretly came to
Mayfield’s house and broke in like common burglars,”
Those famous FBI shoes were the giveaway.
“In this case they didn’t realize in the Mayfield family
– they take their shoes off before they go into the
house,” Spence said. “There were shoe prints in the
carpet. Locks were locked that weren’t usually.
“They knew they were invaded but they didn’t know by
whom,” Spence said of the Mayfield family, which
includes three children.
“Under the Patriot Act they have the power to install
secret microphones and to bug the telephones and to put
microphones under the kitchen table and under the bed,”
Spence said. “One is never given the opportunity to
determine what they have done, what they have taken and
where they have disseminated this information.
“They went into his papers, copied his computers, took
his DNA,” Spence said. On one occasion, Mayfield’s son
was terrified when he saw a stranger trying to break
into his home, Spence said.
The FBI also suspected Mayfield because he went to a
mosque and advertised in a Muslim Yellow Pages
directory. Ford and GM use the same advertising venue,
“And they claimed he must have had false papers because
they couldn’t find any evidence he had left the U.S.” to
take part in the bombings, Spence said. “If you have
stayed at home and minded your own business, you’re also
a criminal because you have fooled the FBI.”
FBI denies role of religion
The FBI has rejected allegations religion played a role
in the investigation. In a statement issued earlier this
year, the agency noted that it had cooperated with the
Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General in
a probe into the botched investigation.
“The OIG report concluded that religion played no
improper role in the identification or investigation of
Mr. Mayfield,” the FBI said.
But once the investigation was under way, religion did
weigh in, according to the probe.
“FBI fingerprint experts probably were more resistant to
re-examining their conclusion that Brandon Mayfield’s
fingerprint matched one on a bag containing detonators
like those used in the attacks in Spain because of his
religion, Inspector General Glenn Fine said in the
executive summary of a 273-page report that otherwise
remains classified,” the Associated Press reported
earlier this year.
Spence said that when it came time to arrest the lawyer,
the media got a tip.
“The press was at hand when the FBI came in to arrest
him, including a reporter from a national magazine,”
Spence said. “Which means that they had notice of the
arrest and of the case and what the government was going
to do some time prior to the arrest. And it was leaked
by the government to the press so the press could be on
hand, which may be in violation of federal criminal laws
that deal with privacy.”
Spence said the settlement precludes him from pursuing
that potential violation. Being jailed hurt Mayfield, he
“He did suffer some injury – some physical injury being
handcuffed and shoved in cells,” Spence said. “It was an
experience that would be a nightmare for you and me as
it was for him.”
Mayfield spent approximately 11 days in jail.
Spence said it also was upsetting that the investigation
violated attorney-client privilege.
“They looked at his client’s papers,” Spence said. “This
is a horrible thing.
“If we give the attorney information, it is secret,” he
said. “It can’t be obtained by the court or anybody
else. It’s as sacred as the parishioner-priest
Spence said arrogance of the FBI was key to its
“The thing that makes this thing so bad, so very bad, is
that the FBI was instructed by the Spanish police that
they had made a mistake – even before they arrested
Mayfield – and that this was not Mayfield’s
fingerprint,” he said. “When you talk to the infallible
FBI and tell them they’ve made a mistake – that’s
Spence said the FBI flew a crew to Spain to convince
investigators there that they were wrong, the FBI was
right. The Europeans would not budge.
The FBI characterized the excursion differently, saying
in a statement that it sent two fingerprint examiners to
Madrid to compare an image of the fingerprint to the
original in possession of Spanish authorities.
The incident is troubling because the charge Mayfield
potentially faced carried the death penalty, Spence
“Consider what would have happened if the Spanish
National Police had not remained solid in their
position,” Spence said. “You then go into court with the
average jury who has been told by the FBI it doesn’t
make mistakes and that fingerprints are an absolute
He criticized the FBI culture, and prosecutors in
general. “You have people in the organization, like in
any government prosecutor’s office, who want to be able
to put the big trophy on the wall and to be able to say,
‘I solved the train in Spain case,’” Spence said.
The FBI contested that its agents were power hungry.
“The OIG also found no evidence of misconduct on the
part of any FBI employees involved in this
investigation,” the agency said in a statement.
The FBI’s most recent apology, published on
Washingtonpost.com, said the agency was sorry “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 home and in Mr. Mayfield’s
“The United States acknowledges that the investigation
and arrest were deeply upsetting to Mr. Mayfield, to
Mrs. Mayfield, and to their three young children, and
the United States regrets that it mistakenly linked Mr.
Mayfield to this terrorist attack,” the statement said.
“The FBI has implemented a number of measures in an
effort to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mayfield and
the Mayfield family does not happen again.”
Spence said the issue goes beyond a botched
investigation or the misidentification of fingerprints.
He said those in power are abusing events to gain more
“Fear is a powerful motivation,” Spence said. “Nobody
has been better of making us afraid, of terrorizing us,
than the power structure. By terrorizing us they can
pass such acts as the Patriot Act.”
The FBI said the act was not misused.
“The OIG report concludes that there was no evidence of
misuse of the Patriot Act,” the FBI said in a statement.
“The report finds, ‘contrary to public speculation,’ the
FBI did not use certain provisions of the Patriot Act
and that the Act did not affect the scope of the FBI’s
use of FISA surveillance or searches. Instead, the OIG
report found that the effect of the Patriot Act on this
investigation was to enable the FBI to share lawful
information with other members of the law enforcement
and intelligence communities.”
Spence said the act is undemocratic and that he was
stifled when asked to testify to Congress about it.
“The sad part of it is the American citizen doesn’t
know, has no idea, what this Patriot Act permits the
government to do,” Spence said. “And so when the Patriot
Act came up for renewal, a minority in Congress, then
the Democrats, [U.S. Rep. John] Conyers asked me to come
testify about the Mayfield case so the public could have
some idea of what’s going on.
“He says, ‘You have to write up a statement – would you
submit it and then we’ll have you testify?’” Spence said
about Conyers’ request. “So I sent the statement in.
“The day before I was to appear I got a call from the
lawyer representing the minority,” Spence said. “‘I’m
sorry, Mr. Spence, but the Republican majority has read
what you are going to testify to,” the lawyer told him.
The message from Republicans was: “If you testify, all
communication between us [Republicans and Democrats] is
forever lost – we will never cooperate with you,” Spence
“When I got that response I prepared a press release and
sent it out to every major news force in the country,”
Spence said. “There was not one that picked that news
Spence said the loss of rights in this country inspired
him to write his latest book, Bloodthirsty Bitches and
Pious Pimps of Power. He said he can’t get on a talk
show to promote it.
“And so we have a very precarious condition which can
lead us into what I call the Fourth Reich,” Spence said.
Mussolini predicted the Fourth Reich would occur when
“government and corporations became indistinguishable.”
“That’s what we really have today,” he said. “Because we
are afraid, we are angry. The average person feels
helpless – ‘What can I do?’”
“Freedom,” Spence said, “requires a little bit of
danger. You have to agree to a little bit of danger to
published Jackson Hole News 12/06/06
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