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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ex-Madrid Train Bombing Suspect Loses FISA Claims

(CN) - The government's $2 million settlement with a former suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings bars him from suing the United States for allegedly violating his Fourth Amendment rights, the 9th Circuit ruled.

The court dismissed Brandon Mayfield's last remaining claim for lack of standing, as a ruling for Mayfield wouldn't redress his alleged injuries.

Following the March 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid that killed 191 people and injured 1,600, Mayfield was identified as a potential suspect based on a fingerprint profile. Though Spanish police later insisted Mayfield did not match the profile, the FBI declared a "100% positive identification" and arrested Mayfield, thrusting him into the national and international press as a possible train bomber.

Mayfield, 43, is a Muslim and practicing attorney who lives in suburban Portland with his wife and three children.

A few weeks later, Spain matched the prints to those of an Algerian citizen, and Mayfield was released from prison. He filed suit in Oregon Federal Court, accusing the government of false arrest and imprisonment.

The government agreed to settle the claims by paying Mayfield and his family $2 million, destroying documents related to his FBI search and issuing an apology. In exchange, Mayfield agreed to abandon all claims against the government except one: that certain provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

"Having bargained away all other forms of relief, Mayfield is now entitled only to a declaratory judgment," Judge Paez wrote.

Mayfield argued that the provisions allowed the government to illegally spy on him, subjecting him to physical searches and wiretaps without probable cause.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken sided with Mayfield, finding that the challenged provisions violated the probable-cause requirement.

Reversing, the 9th Circuit explained that striking down the FISA provisions would not require the government to destroy the information it gleaned through surveillance.

"We agree that Mayfield suffers an actual, ongoing injury, but do not agree that a declaratory judgment would likely redress that injury," Judge Richard Paez wrote for the three-judge panel in San Francisco.

Mayfield can't seek injunctive relief under the terms of the settlement agreement, the court noted, so he lacks standing to pursue his Fourth Amendment claim.

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