Gitmo Chaplain Charged

2001/9/28 James Yee headshot, as US Army Muslim chaplain
AP
A former Muslim chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorism suspects has been charged with disobeying orders for improperly handling classified information, the military announced Friday.

Army Capt. James Yee, who also has used the name Yousef Yee, was charged with two counts of failing to obey a lawful order, U.S. Southern Command announced. He is charged with taking classified information home and wrongly transporting classified information.

Yee is one of three former workers at the high-security military base to be arrested in a probe of alleged espionage there. The charges against Yee are lesser than those against the others.

Authorities arrested Yee Sept. 10 as he arrived at a Jacksonville, Fla., naval base on a flight from the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. Officials have said he was carrying classified information about the base with him when he was arrested.

He is being held at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.

"The Army continues to investigate Yee's conduct, and if warranted, additional charges could be forthcoming," Southern Command said in a statement.

Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison, will decide on the next step. Miller's options include dismissing the charges or convening a special court-martial, which could impose a penalty of up to a year in prison and a bad conduct discharge. Miller also could send the case to an Article 32 hearing, a kind of mini-trial in which prosecutors present evidence for commanders to decide whether to send the case to a general court-martial.

A team of military investigators arrived at Guantanamo Bay Thursday to probe security at the facility. Miller has ordered a security crackdown in the wake of the three arrests, and military officials have said others who have not been arrested are under suspicion.

The most serious charges are against Senior Airman Ahmed I. al-Halabi, an Air Force supply clerk who worked as an Arabic translator at the prison for about nine months. Military prosecutors accuse al-Halabi of gathering classified information and messages from prisoners with plans to send that information to Syria and an unidentified enemy. The charges, espionage and aiding the enemy, could carry the death penalty.

Al-Halabi's lawyers say their client is innocent.

Also charged is a former civilian Arabic interpreter at the base, Ahmad F. Mehalba. Agents arrested Mehalba last month as he arrived in Boston after visiting his native Egypt. Mehalba is accused of lying to investigators by denying that computer discs he carried with him had classified information from Guantanamo Bay on them.

About 660 suspected members of the al Qaeda terrorist network or Afghanistan's former Taliban government are being held at the Guantanamo Bay base. Military officials are investigating whether the three arrested men were working together.