- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

SEATTLE (AP) — The Pentagon’s inspector general concluded that, for the most part, the Army properly handled the case of a Muslim chaplain who was detained for 76 days and then cleared in an espionage investigation.

A two-page, unclassified executive summary released yesterday said the probe found only two mistakes: The first, when a general overturned retired Army Capt. James Yee’s reprimand for committing adultery and downloading pornography; and the second, when a deputy public-affairs officer wrote a letter to the New York Times about the case.

Capt. Yee’s attorney, Gene Fidell, called the document “preposterous” and noted that he was never contacted by the Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General. The office began its investigation in mid-2004 at the request of Democratic lawmakers who questioned whether Capt. Yee was unfairly targeted because of his religion.

“What kind of investigation is this?” Mr. Fidell asked. “Why is it it took them three years? Three years, and they come up with two pages? This is a deep insult to Congress, not to mention Chaplain Yee. Congress had a right to expect more, better, sooner.”

Capt. Yee, who was based at Fort Lewis south of Seattle, was arrested in 2003 and charged with mishandling classified material and other crimes in a suspected espionage ring at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The criminal charges were later dropped, but he was then reprimanded for adultery and downloading pornography.

Gen. James T. Hill, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, threw out that reprimand in early 2004, saying, “I do not believe, given the extreme notoriety of his case in the news media, that further stigmatizing Chaplain Yee would serve a just and fair purpose.”

Capt. Yee received an honorable discharge in January 2005, followed by an Army commendation for “exceptionally meritorious service.”

Gen. Hill’s decision exceeded his authority under Army regulations, the executive summary said, but no corrective action was recommended.

Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a deputy public-affairs officer with the Army’s Southern Command in Miami, wrote a letter to the Times in March 2004 defending the handling of the case. Doing so violated policy, the summary said. It recommended that Lt. Col. Costello’s commander consider punishment.

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