After following for some time the case of the U.S. Army chaplain who ministered to Muslim terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, one begins to wonder whether the Army has a vendetta against not only Captain Yee, but all Muslims. Yesterday’s New York Times in Missteps Seen in Muslim Chaplain’s Spy Case details the missteps and overreaching of the Army brass in prosecuting Yee.
According to a former security officer at Guantanamo Bay, an inexperienced, overzealous security apparatus there panicked at the possibility that the base’s security might have been breached.
The officer who served at Guantánamo at the same time as Captain Yee said in an interview that one likely cause of his troubles was the relative inexperience of the officers in charge of security at the base.
“They were all reservists and were completely afraid of missing something and were quite jumpy,” said this officer, who is still in the service.
Indeed, one of these reservists ended up himself being charged with the same offenses that were initially lodged against Captain Yee, specifically “wrongfully transporting classified material without the proper security container.” But the officer, Col. Jack Farr, a reservist in Army intelligence, was not arrested or detained like Captain Yee.
Colonel Farr was also charged with making a false statement about his handling of classified documents when the matter was being investigated.
As a result of the jumpy security officials, they suspected everyone at the base (especially Muslims on the base staff) of being a potential ‘weak link.’ When Yee traveled stateside to visit his family, these same officers requested that the Customs Service search him for potentially sensitive documents.
Agents found in Yee’s possession
a typewritten sheet, which appeared to have names of detainees, their identifying numbers and possibly the names of their interrogators.
This is incriminating? Remember, the guy is a chaplain who serves as intermediary between the Army and the Muslim prisoners. I can’t say why he was carrying the document, but it makes perfect sense to me that this would be important information for him to have in his role as chaplain. Even if you take the most uncharitable view and ask why he was carrying such a document off the base, you’d still have to admit that the Army has come up with no proof whatsoever that he was a member of the espionage ring which the base commander and his staff first posited when Yee was arrested. Keep in mind too that the Army itself can’t decide whether the document he carried was classified or not.
So now that the most damning parts of the case are discarded by the Army, they’re going to release him and let him get on with his life, right? WRONG. They found some trumped up charges and these are the ones Yee now faces. Apparently, he engaged in an adulterous affair with a fellow officer (not a subordinate which would be a more serious offense). And during his Customs Service search, he was asked whether he had any luggage. He answered “no” because:
he was chaperoning a child from Guantánamo to Jacksonville, and as he was taking the child to a building at the airport to be met by another adult, he was asked whether he had any luggage. When he answered that he did not, he may have meant that he left it elsewhere, his lawyers have suggested.
Sounds entirely plausible to me.
Here’s what the Army’s former top military lawyer (now retired) said about the whole sordid affair:
“This whole thing makes the military prosecutors look ridiculous,” said John L. Fugh, a retired major general and onetime judge advocate general, the highest uniformed legal officer in the Army.
“It certainly seems like they couldn’t get him on what they first thought they had,” General Fugh said, “so they said, `Let’s get the son of a gun on something.’ ”
General Fugh, who has played no role in the prosecution or the defense of Captain Yee, said, “Adding these Mickey Mouse charges just makes them look dumb, in my mind.”
Amen to that.
So who is the real culprit here?
A spokesman for the United States Southern Command based in Miami said that General Miller [the Guantanamo base commander] had made the major decisions about how to handle the case, including deciding to bring the initial charges against Captain Yee, to have him detained in the brig and to include the additional charges.
I hope this means that the Central Command is hanging General Miller out to dry and that he has no support from his superiors. If Don Rumsfeld was the type of Defense Secretary you could respect, you’d expect his staff to intervene delicately and make the whole thing go away. Instead, Rumsfeld’s staff says coyly: “the Yee case never reached his office.” Yeah, sure.
Finally, we have to ask whether this type of persecution ( as opposed to ‘prosecution’) means that the Army is declaring war on Muslim-Americans within its ranks. I’d have to say that the answer is decidedly not “No.” In fact, I’d say that whether the Army really wants to rid itself of such personnel or not is not as critical a question as the mere fact that we are asking the question at all. All Muslim-Americans will see this reckless prosecution as a taint on the Army. They will rightfully be enraged at General Miller’s arrogance and overreaching. Even if the Army wants Muslims to enlist (as it trumpeted Captain Yee when he was first appointed to his chaplaincy), if you were a Muslim, would you?