Translator Still Held Without Charge
- TRANSLATOR'S LAWYERS CITE CONTRADICTIONS
John Mintz, Washington Post, 4/24/04
Attorneys for an Air Force translator at the Guantanamo Bay prison
who faces a variety of criminal charges said military officials have
offered contradictory explanations about whether they consider
information found in his possession to be classified. The continually
changing reasons make it difficult to determine the basis for many of
the criminal charges against him, the lawyers contend.
The complaint came in 40 pages of legal papers filed last week in the
court-martial of Airman Ahmad I. Halabi. His attorneys said
investigators have repeatedly changed their reasoning about why the
translations of letters from detainees to their families that Halabi
possessed were considered classified.
"Halabi remains in jail and has been in pre-trial confinement for
nine months, and still the government does not have a consolidated,
consistent or intelligible position on the classification of
information" in the case, Halabi's attorneys wrote. "Each time the
defense points out the flaws in the classification logic, a different
reason for classification of information is created or invented."
The legal documents were filed one month after the U.S. military
dropped all criminal charges against Army Capt. James Yee, a Muslim
chaplain who also worked at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in
Cuba for al Qaeda and Taliban suspects. Yee's case was racked with
disputes about whether the documents he possessed were properly
deemed classified. Yesterday, two Democratic senators on the Armed
Services Committee, Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and Carl M. Levin
(Mich.), asked the Pentagon to investigate the military's treatment
Halabi, who has been held in solitary confinement on a California
military base, is charged with mishandling classified material and
attempted espionage, among other charges. The latter charge stems
from an alleged plan, apparently never carried out, to pass
information to someone in his native Syria
According to Halabi's court papers, last July, soon after Halabi was
arrested in Florida following eight months in Guantanamo Bay,
officials said the copies of detainee letters that he had on his
laptop computer were classified because the letters contained inmate
identification numbers. The combinations of names and numbers made
them a secret, they added.
But, in September, officials said having the names alone was a
At a hearing last month, officials said neither the names nor the
numbers, nor any combinations, were classified. Air Force Office of
Special Investigations agent Lance Wega said, though, that
the "family names and addresses of detainees" in the letters remained
In addition, officials said, a CD-ROM that Halabi had with
information identical to that on the laptop was classified. Defense
attorneys said that, earlier this month, an official at the Southern
Command, the military unit that oversees the Guantanamo Bay prison,
told them why the CD-ROM was secret, but that he added that the
reason was itself classified. Halabi's attorneys wrote that the
official's reason was "completely inconsistent" with all the other
explanations given previously.
Halabi's military lawyers, Air Force Majors James Key and Kim London,
wrote that the letters cannot be classified because they were created
not by the government but by detainees -- and that, in any case, the
letters are "old mail long ago released to detainees or their
families." Guantanamo Bay translators such as Halabi translated the
letters on non-secure computers and were not warned to treat the
letters or inmate numbers as secret, the lawyers wrote
DEMOCRATS SEEK PROBE OF ARMY CHAPLAIN'S TREATMENT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Democratic members of the Senate Armed
Services Committee called on Friday for the Pentagon to conduct an
investigation into its treatment of a Muslim Army chaplain who was
suspected of spying, detained for months and then quietly released.
Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, senior Democrat on the committee, and
Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said the manner in which Capt. James
Yee was detained and prosecuted "raises serious questions about the
fair and effective administration of military justice."
They urged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a letter "to give
this issue your immediate attention."
The military initially held Lee, 36, on suspicion of espionage at the
Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, where he was a Muslim
chaplain ministering to terror suspects.
He was arrested last September and placed in solitary confinement for
The senators said the Pentagon should investigate the Army's handling
of the case, "including whether the extensive pre-trial confinement
and the charges against the chaplain were supported by the evidence."
They said the probe should look into "how and why information in the
case was released to the press," noting that media reports had cited
anonymous government sources saying Yee was suspected of espionage,
aiding the enemy and treason.
MUSLIM CHAPLAIN CLEARED OF ALL CHARGES
CAIR welcomes dismissal of convictions as 'total vindication'
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/14/04) - The Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR) tonight welcomed a decision by the U.S. military to
dismiss the convictions against a Muslim Army chaplain who was
initially suspected of espionage at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in
The decision by Army Gen. James Hill clears the record of Capt. James
Yee, who was found guilty in March of noncriminal charges of
committing adultery and storing pornography on a government computer.
Yee was arrested on suspicion of espionage in September and was held
in solitary confinement for 76 days. The Army later dismissed all
SEE: "Yee Cleared On Appeal"
"We welcome what amounts to total vindication for a man who only
wished to serve his country by ministering to military personnel of
all faiths," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Following the announcement of the dismissal of his convictions, Yee
told CAIR: "I want to thank the many Americans and those around the
world who have given me an enormous outpouring of support through the
entirety of this ordeal and who continue to support the cause of
justice and freedom."
CAIR's Seattle office undertook a number of efforts on Yee's behalf
during his eight-month ordeal.
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, is
headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 26 regional offices and
chapters nationwide and in Canada.
CAPT. YEE'S MUZZLE
Washington Post, 4/18/04
THE ARMY HAS a message for Capt. James Joseph Yee: Keep your mouth
shut. Mr. Yee, you'll recall, was the army's Muslim chaplain at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until he was arrested last year on suspicion of
spying. Mr. Yee was held for more than two months while the military
dragged his name through the mud, but he was never charged with more
than mishandling of classified materials, and the Army finally
dropped all charges against him -- save administrative sanctions for
adultery and downloading pornography from the Internet. On Wednesday,
Mr. Yee won his bid to have the reprimand that had been issued to him
removed from his record. Yet the Army has also gone out of its way to
continue smearing him, writing letters to newspapers -- including
this one -- that implied that Mr. Yee was, in fact, dangerous, and
argued that it was "Yee, not the Army, who sullied his reputation as
a Chaplain and a military officer." And behind the scenes, it turns
out, the Army has done its best to make sure that Mr. Yee doesn't
Earlier this month, when Mr. Yee returned to his permanent base at
Fort Lewis, Wash., he was handed a memo titled "Duties,
Responsibilities, and Standards of Conduct." This document helpfully
reminded him that "Like any soldier, you are permitted to exercise
your First Amendment rights to free speech." But it then went on to
explain: "Speech that undermines the effectiveness of loyalty,
discipline, or unit morale is not constitutionally protected. Such
speech includes, but is not limited to, disrespectful acts or
language, however, expressed, toward military authorities or other
officials. Adverse criticism of [the Defense Department] or Army
policy that is disloyal or disruptive to good order and discipline is
similarly limited." For good measure, the memo concludes
that "compliance" with its terms "is an order."
It is true that active-duty military officers accept limits on their
free-speech rights. Military law forbids contemptuous words directed
against the president and other specified state and federal officers,
for example, not to mention disrespect toward superior officers and
conduct that discredits the military. But the order to Mr. Yee
appears broader than the restrictions actually in the Uniform Code of
Military Conduct, and the Army did not respond to our inquiries as to
its legal basis. How exactly could Mr. Yee talk in public about what
must have been a nightmarish few months without risking undermining
the loyalty of his listeners? Merely to describe a case that began
with allegations of mutiny, sedition, and espionage and ended with
adultery is to criticize it, after all. The military ought, at this
stage, to be apologizing to Mr. Yee instead of muzzling him with one
hand while continuing to tar him with the other.
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