PORTLAND, Ore. – Two weeks after United States authorities cleared a
Portland-area lawyer of any connection to the deadly terrorist bombing in
Madrid, high-level Spanish law enforcement officials who were also involved
in the investigation are challenging key aspects of the United States’
version of events in the case, touching off a muddy dispute between the two
allies and painting a portrait of F.B.I. officials who repeatedly rejected
evidence that they had the wrong man.
Much of the disagreement between the two countries continues to center on
the fingerprints lifted from a blue plastic bag discovered near the scene
of the March 11 bombing, which killed 191 people and left 2,000 injured in
the deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since World War II. F.B.I.
officials once maintained the prints matched those of the American lawyer,
Brandon Mayfield, who was jailed for two weeks, and the F.B.I. at one point
told federal prosecutors that Spanish officials were “satisfied” with their
But in interviews this week, Spanish officials vehemently denied ever
backing up that assessment, saying they had told American law enforcement
officials from the start, after their own tests, that the match was
negative. The Spanish officials said their American counterparts
relentlessly pressed their case anyway, explaining away stark proof of a
flawed link – including what the Spanish described as tell-tale forensic
signs – and seemingly refusing to accept the notion that they were mistaken.
“They had a justification for everything,” said Pedro Luis Melida Lledo,
head of the fingerprint unit for the Spanish National Police, whose team
analyzed the prints in question and met with the Americans on April 21.
“But I just couldn’t see it…”