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Translator Still Held Without Charge

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    TRANSLATOR S LAWYERS CITE CONTRADICTIONS John Mintz, Washington Post, 4/24/04 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37734-2004Apr23.html Attorneys for
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2004
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      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
      of Yee.

      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…

      Reuters, 4/23/04

      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
      76 days…

      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.

      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
      criminal charges.

      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.

      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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