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Originally published September 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 20, 2007 at 2:08 AM

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Pentagon: Dropping Yee's reprimand was a mistake

The Pentagon's inspector general has concluded that the Army for the most part properly handled the case of former Muslim Army chaplain...

The Pentagon's inspector general has concluded that the Army for the most part properly handled the case of former Muslim Army chaplain James Yee, who was detained for 76 days and then cleared in an espionage probe.

A two-page, unclassified summary released Wednesday said the investigation found two mistakes: One, when a general overturned a reprimand for adultery and downloading pornography; and two, when a deputy public-affairs officer told The New York Times about the case.

Yee, a former captain who had been based at Fort Lewis, was arrested in 2003 and charged with mishandling classified material and other crimes in a suspected espionage ring at Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, but criminal charges were dropped.

He then received the reprimand, but Gen. James Hill, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, threw it out in early 2004. His decision exceeded his authority, the summary said.

Yee's attorney, Gene Fidell, called the summary "preposterous." "What kind of investigation is this?" he asked. "... Three years, and they come up with two pages?"

Fidell also raised questions about a footnote that said it was not until May 19, 2004 — long after the case had been resolved — that the Army completed a formal classification review of documents found in Yee's possession when he was arrested. The review found 54 documents containing secret information, according to the footnote. Yee has said there were no classified materials in his possession, and most documents had been downloaded from the Internet for a postgraduate course.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said no one was available to discuss the summary.

Yee received an honorable discharge in January 2005, followed by a commendation for "exceptionally meritorious service." He later wrote a book, "For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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