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Muslim chaplain proposes to resign

Original charge was espionage, but no evidence introduced

From James Polk and Bob Franken
CNN Washington Bureau

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Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Cuba)
Espionage and Intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Muslim chaplain Capt. James Yee has signed a proposed agreement to resign from the Army if the military will end its effort to prosecute him for allegedly mishandling classified information at the terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a document revealed Thursday.

The Pentagon had no comment and apparently has not signed off on the agreement.

The proposed agreement was sent out inadvertently by Yee's lead defense lawyer, Eugene Fidell, in an e-mail to a number of news organizations Thursday, including CNN.

Fidell almost immediately tried to recall the e-mail, but the document already had been distributed. It was signed by Yee, by Fidell, and by three other lawyers for the chaplain. Fidell had no comment afterward.

Under the draft agreement, Yee would receive an honorable discharge. He would agree to take a polygraph and undergo a national security debriefing for up to 30 days.

The proposal says Yee would be given immunity for anything he may say in the security debriefing.

Yee, a West Point graduate, was a chaplain for the terrorist detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval base when he was arrested last September and originally accused of espionage. He was jailed for 76 days.

The formal charges turned out to be nothing more than mishandling classified information, but Army prosecutors never introduced evidence on what that was. They delayed Yee's preliminary hearing five separate times.

The only testimony about what Yee might have done wrong came from a U.S. Customs agent, who said Yee was carrying lists with names of detainees and interrogators when he arrived in Florida on leave in September. The agent searched Yee's belongings on a tip from military investigators.

The written proposal calls for the Army to dismiss those charges, with no right ever to re-file them.

The Army had added four minor charges, mainly involving adultery and pornography, at the time it filed the reduced accusations of mishandling classified information.

Under the proposed settlement, Yee would accept administrative punishment on those sex-related charges rather than face a court-martial.

Sources indicated earlier in the week that both sides were trying to reach an agreement to end the case.

There had been signs of trouble with the Yee prosecution almost from the beginning, and critics said the Army apparently lacked the evidence to back up its case.

"Why they have not dropped the charges is a mystery to me. ... My guess would be that they're unwilling to admit that a mistake was made," Gary Solis, a retired military prosecutor who is a law professor at Georgetown University, said recently.

Yee, released from a Navy brig in November, was recently transferred from Fort Benning, Georgia, to Fort Meade, Maryland.

Presumably, the national security debriefing would take place there. Fort Meade is the home of the National Security Agency.

The next date for Yee's preliminary hearing is Wednesday, March 24, most likely at Fort Benning -- but apparently this would take place only if no final deal is reached by then.


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