- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

FORT BENNING, Ga. — A customs agent testified yesterday that he found “suspicious” papers related to national security in the backpack of a Muslim chaplain accused of mishandling classified documents from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Special Agent Sean Rafferty, who works as a customs inspector in Jacksonville, Fla., said he was tipped off to watch for Army Capt. James Yee, 35, at the airport as Capt. Yee returned from the Cuba base. He said he searched the backpack that Capt. Yee carried off the plane.

“I found numerous notes of a suspicious nature,” Mr. Rafferty said during a conference call to the preliminary hearing that will determine whether Capt. Yee should be court-martialed. “It was determined the documents were of interest to national security.”

Some of the documents mentioned Syria, and others dealt with Guantanamo and the U.S. interrogators who work there, Mr. Rafferty said.

Capt. Yee’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, said he had not interviewed Mr. Rafferty before hearing his testimony and asked the judge for a recess to talk with the man.

Capt. Yee is charged with disobeying an order by taking home classified material from the prison and improperly transporting it. He also faces charges of making a false statement, storing pornography on a government computer and adultery — a criminal offense under military law.

Capt. Yee is one of four persons at the military’s high-security prison to have been arrested since September.

Capt. Yee first was detained on Sept. 10 after the flight to Jacksonville and served 67 days in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., before the Army released him. The government then filed the additional charges, including adultery.

The first witness to testify yesterday was Navy reserve officer Lt. Caren Wallace, who said she had sex with Capt. Yee at his quarters in Guantanamo and at a motel in Orlando, Fla., where he was attending a conference.

Photographs of the two were entered into evidence, including one showing Capt. Yee and Lt. Wallace hugging. Lt. Wallace is being given immunity from prosecution for her testimony.

Capt. Yee was accompanied into the hearing by his parents, wife and 4-year-old daughter, who wore a button saying “Justice for Capt. Yee.”

Capt. Yee’s wife, Huda Yee, sat stone-faced during Lt. Wallace’s testimony. But during a break, she sat on a bench outside the courtroom and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. Capt. Yee’s mother comforted her.

Capt. Yee and his family declined to comment on their way to the hearing, but Mr. Fidell told reporters that the charges are “ridiculous.”

“We’re hoping these charges that are trivial will go away,” Mr. Fidell said.

Yesterday’s hearing had been delayed for a week after prosecutors discovered that the legal staff at Guantanamo mistakenly had released a classified document to the hearing officer and to Capt. Yee’s attorney.

Capt. 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.

In another case, Arabic translator Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi has pleaded not guilty to charges of espionage and aiding the enemy.

A civilian interpreter, Ahmad F. Mehalba, was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport and charged with lying to federal agents by denying that computer discs he was carrying contained classified information.

And last month, Army Col. Jack Farr was charged with wrongfully transporting classified material and lying to investigators.

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