Something like this could happen to any of us [via More Junkmail from Bob!].
It took no more than a week for James P. Wynne, a veteran F.B.I. investigator, to confirm the harmless truth that only now, more than two years later, he is ready to talk about. The small foreign man he helped arrest for videotaping outside an office building in Queens on Oct. 25, 2001, was no terrorist.
He was a Buddhist from Nepal planning to return there after five years of odd jobs at places like a Queens pizzeria and a Manhattan flower shop. He was taping New York street scenes to take back to his wife and sons in Katmandu. And he had no clue that the tall building that had drifted into his viewfinder happened to include an office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Yet by the time Mr. Wynne filed his F.B.I. report a few days later, the Nepalese man, who spoke almost no English, had been placed in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Brooklyn just because of his videotaping. He was swallowed up in the government's new maximum security system of secret detention and secret hearings, and his only friend was the same F.B.I. agent who had helped decide to put him there.
Except for the videotape — "a tourist kind of thing," in Mr. Wynne's estimation — no shred of suspicion attached to the man, Purna Raj Bajracharya, 47, who came from Nepal in 1996. His one offense — staying to work on a long-expired tourist visa — was an immigration violation punishable by deportation, not jail. But he wound up spending three months in solitary confinement before he was sent back to Katmandu in January 2002, and to release him from his shackles, even Mr. Wynne needed help.
The clearance process had become so byzantine that the officer who had set the procedure in motion could not hasten it. Unable to procure a release that officially required signatures from top antiterrorism officials in Washington, Mr. Wynne took an uncommon step for an F.B.I. agent: he called the Legal Aid Society for a lawyer to help the jailed man.
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