Chinese American Muslim arrested and smeared
By Rod Holt
Abruptly, on September 10, 2003, Captain James J. Yee was arrested by military police, as he was on the way home to see his wife and child. He was stationed in Guantánamo as chaplain to attend to the spiritual needs of the Muslim prisoners held at Camp X-ray. He was summarily locked up incommunicado without even being allowed a phone call to his wife awaiting him in Seattle. She was to learn of his detention days later. It took the Associated Press 10 days from the time of the arrest to publish its report.
It was two weeks after the arrest, before the New York Times printed the first article of its own. Chaplain Yee was described as a graduate of West Point and a deeply dedicated convert to Islam. He had learned Arabic while studying in Syria. In Camp X-ray he not only led in prayers, he advised the base commander on religious needs and helped straighten out misunderstandings.
The Times went on to prejudice the public against Captain Yee by speculating that Yee was being investigated in a growing military inquiry into spying at Guantánamo although they admitted that the military authorities had made no charges against him and declined to discuss the case. But One military official said today that Captain Yee was found to have hand-drawn maps of where the prisoners were kept in the camp, lists of which interrogators had interviewed which prisoners and notations on the subjects of the interviews. (Note the early mention of these documents.)
Virulent Hatred Quickly Surfaces
The story of a spy ring at Guantánamo, the previous arrest of Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi, and now the arrest of a Chinese American Muslim cleric kicked off all sorts of speculation. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York hastily put out a press release headed: NEW REVELATION: Captain Yee Was Trained And Selected To Be A Muslim Chaplain By Group Being Investigated For Terrorism. The fact that a chaplain who was detained for supposedly stealing classified documents was trained by a group under investigation for terrorism should set off alarms at the highest levels, said Schumer. The press release went on to connect these terrorist groups with the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. And there is more of the same.
[As a note of interest to our readers, Schumers press release revealed that there are a total of 12 Muslim chaplains in the Armed Services. Imagine that! 12!]
Similarities to the Wen Ho Lee Case
L. Ling-chi Wang was a principal organizer of the Chinese American community in the defense of Wen Ho Lee, the nuclear scientist at Los Alamos who was accused of spying, terribly mistreated by the U.S. government and was later exonerated. Mr. Wang was alerted to the Captain Yee case because of its similarities to that of Wen Ho Lee. On September 30 he wrote of the parallels for the Pacific News Service. Among them are:
The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey carried a story December 3, 2003, that indicated how flimsy the governments case really is. We reprint parts below:
The government has now backtracked in confusion. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on December 20 that:
Federal agents said they found classified sketches of the military prison in his bags, and he was placed in solitary confinement in South Carolina.
Yee was never officially accused, but upon his release Nov. 25, he was slapped with a string of charges, including failure to obey orders and storing pornography on his government computer, although none approached treason. A preliminary hearing was postponed after government officials said they needed more time to determine whether documents found in Yees luggage were, in fact, classified. In the meantime, Yee is on a 30-day leave.
Embarrassed by the misbehavior of the military prosecutors and aware of burgeoning defense movement, the New York Times wrote an editorial December 14 calling the military mean-spirited and incompetent and the charges murky. They seem to be motivated, in this case, by a desire to embarrass Captain Yee, and by frustration that the larger case against him is so weak.So says the Times after they see there is no yeast in the dough.
Organizing a defense
At the end of the year, no one seems to be sure of what Captain Yee will be tried for. Some sort of hearing is expected in January. But those involved in preserving our civil liberties have not been waiting around. They have taken the initiative in countering the medias disinformation campaign. It is the spirited offense launched against the governments witch-hunt that has given pause to those who would profit from racist hysteria.
The American Muslim Armed Forces and Veteran Affairs Council (AMAF and VAC) have an excellent web page carrying news articles on the case, http://www.amafandvac.org. They also publicize the defense fund set up by Captain Yees family:
Chaplain James Yee Defense Fund
Justice For New Americans, www.j4na.org, has organized public meetings in San Francisco for Captain Yees defense, obtaining broad public support in the process. Justice For New Americans has joined a group of civil liberties organizations which include Chinese for Affirmative Action, the American Muslim Voice, the Blue Triangle Network, Amnesty International, the Lawyers Guild, and many more.
For more information, contact
Sources include Brian Donohue of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Claudia Rowe of the Seattle Post-Intelligence, L. Ling-chi Wang of the Pacific News Service, The New York Times and the Associated Press.