Gitmo Chaplain's Case Delayed

Army Capt. James Yee departs his military hearing at Ft. Benning, Ga., Monday, Dec. 8, 2003. Yee, 35, is charged with taking classified documents home with him from Guantanamo, Cuba, on a flight to Jacksonville, Fla., where he was detained Sept. 10. He was charged with disobeying an order by taking the material and with transporting classified documents improperly.
The Muslim chaplain accused of mishandling classified information from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says he'll take advantage of a postponement in his case to visit his family.

"The first thing on my mind is spending time with my family," Army Capt. James Yee said Tuesday after officials agreed to delay his preliminary hearing for more than a month. The delay will allow the Army to review documents that defense attorneys seek to have released.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of Guantanamo camp operations, granted a postponement until Jan. 19, said Col. Dan Trimble, the presiding judge in the case against Yee.

Defense attorneys say they need to see the documents the Army confiscated three months ago from Yee's backpack as he returned from Guantanamo, where he worked with suspected terrorists — most captured during fighting in Afghanistan.

His attorneys have said the documents include two small notebooks, a typewritten page and a term paper on Syria that Yee wrote for a college course on international affairs.

Although reports said Yee was being investigated as part of an espionage probe at Guantanamo, he was never charged with spying.

Instead, the Army is prosecuting him on lesser charges including mishandling classified information — notes found by Customs officials when they searched him on Sept. 10 at the Jacksonville, Fla., airport.

Yee, 35, is also charged with disobeying an order, making a false statement, adultery and storing pornography on his government computer.

One of his attorneys, Eugene Fidell, hopes the long delay will lead to a dismissal of the charges.

"I think they've blown it," Fidell said. "I'm going to hope this substantial delay does afford them an opportunity to take a fresh look at this, perhaps to reassess the benefits and costs."

Yee, a 1990 West Point graduate who left the military for four years to study Arabic and Islam in Syria, returned as a chaplain and counseled some of the prison's 660 detainees from more than 40 countries.