For Immediate Release
FBI National Press Office
RESPONDS TO THE OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL’S REPORTON
THE FINGERPRINT MISIDENTIFICATION OF BRANDON MAYFIELD
D.C. - We appreciate the work of the Office of the
Inspector General (OIG) in providing additional insights
and perspective into how the FBI can strengthen the process
of fingerprint identification. Of particular importance,
the OIG report confirmed there was no misconduct by the
FBI or misuse of the USA Patriot Act. We are confident that
the OIG’s findings and recommendations, combined with
corrective measures already implemented, will significantly
enhance our ability to perform our duties to the public.
The May, 2004 arrest of Brandon Mayfield was based on an
extremely unusual confluence of events, including principally,
an unusual similarity between Mr. Mayfield’s known
fingerprint and a copy of a latent fingerprint recovered
from the scene of the lethal terrorist bombings in Madrid.
The fingerprint identification was made by both the FBI
and by Mr. Mayfield’s own fingerprint expert.
was learned later in May of 2004, the fingerprint identification
made by the FBI and defense experts was an error. Upon learning
of the mistake, and at the request of the U.S. government,
Mr. Mayfield was released from prison and the charges dismissed.
Subsequently, the FBI convened a panel of international
experts to examine what went wrong and to propose reforms
to minimize the risk o f recurrence. Those reforms have
since been undertaken by the FBI.
The FBI fully cooperated with the OIG’s investigation
while simultaneously conducting its own internal review
of the fingerprint misidentification. The OIG identified
the “unusual similarity” between the two prints
(the known fingerprint of Mr. Mayfield and the latent fingerprint
recovered from the Spanish crime scene), as a major factor
for the mistake made by both the FBI and Mr. Mayfield’s
own experts. Such a degree of similarity of fingerprints
is “extremely rare,” the OIG report notes.
The OIG report recommends several ways in which the FBI’s
methodology can be enhanced to minimize the risk of recurrence
of the mistake . Several of these recommendations were made
previously and independently by the international expert
panel. Following that review, we implemented a series of
procedural reforms designed to prevent future errors. The
OIG has now finished its evaluation of these measures and
concludes in its report that these were “significant
steps” undertaken by the FBI. The OIG report also
recommended additional measures the FBI can implement to
further strengthen our assessment of fingerprints. These
recommendations will all be considered and discussed with
leading experts to make sure we are employing the most effective
means to ensure the integrity of our expert examinations.
The OIG report also includes other important findings about
the FBI’s initiation of and conduct during this investigation.
First, the OIG report concludes that there was no evidence
of misuse of the Patriot Act. 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. Second, the
OIG report concluded that religion played no improper role
in the identification or investigation of Mr. Mayfield.
Third, the OIG report found no evidence of misconduct on
the part of any FBI employees involved in this investigation.
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