FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dr. Lee and Captain Yee

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Shoot first and inquire afterwards and if you make mistakes, I will protect you.

Hermann Goering, Instructions to Prussian police

Rhyming last names is not all the two men have in common. Each man, though innocent of the initial charges, gave up something to the justice system. Wen Ho Lee gave up his job and almost a year of his life to solitary confinement in a New Mexico jail. Captain Yee gave up three months to solitary confinement in a naval brig and, very possibly, a marriage. The prosecution in both cases lost nothing more than face.

Wen Ho Lee, a former Los Alamos scientist, was arrested in April 1999 and charged in a 59-count indictment with mishandling highly classified national defense information and violating the Atomic Energy Act and the Federal Espionage Act by secretly moving vast quantities of classified nuclear weapons data from a secure computer at Los Alamos National Laboratory onto an “open” computer system. His computer allegedly had top-secret and “code-word” files about a wide range of CIA activities, including presidentially approved covert action programs.

After Mr. Lee was indicted, the government discovered that the material Mr. Lee had taken was not marked secret or confidential as the indictment alleged. To cure this fatal defect, the prosecution reclassified as secret and confidential all the information that Dr. Lee was alleged to have mishandled, thus saving the indictment.

When Dr. Lee sought release from jail pending trial, Robert Messemer, an FBI agent, lied to the federal judge who was considering whether or not to release Dr. Lee on bail, resulting in Dr. Lee’s continued incarceration. When the lies were disclosed at trial, Mr. Messemer said to the judge that he never intended “to mislead you or anyone in this court or any court.” He described his lies as “simple, inadvertent error.”

Dr. Lee was tried, found innocent on all counts and released from confinement. The case was over and so was Dr. Lee’s career as a government scientist.

Captain Yee is a West Point graduate and who converted to Islam. He was assigned to Guantanamo Bay as a chaplain in late 2002. Upon returning to the United States in September 2003 for a family visit, Captain Yee was arrested in Jacksonville on suspicion of espionage. Federal agents said he had sketches of the military prison to which he was assigned and also had documents concerning captured Taliban and al-Qaida fighters to whom he ministered. Initial reports about his arrest, many citing unidentified sources, said he was being held on suspicion of sedition and espionage. One spokesman hinted that his activities might qualify Captain Yee for the death penalty.

One month after Captain Yee’s arrest, suggestions of treason and espionage were replaced by charges that Captain Yee had disobeyed a general order by taking classified material home and transporting classified material without proper security containers. Unlike the possibility of a death sentence, each of those charges carries a maximum jail term of two years.

Notwithstanding the relatively minor nature of the charged offenses, Eugene Fidell, his lead attorney, in a letter to President Bush, described the conditions in which the captain was held pending trial. He said Captain Yee was in solitary confinement 23 hours a day with only one hour of solitary exercise and was required to wear leg and hand irons when leaving the cell. Brig personnel refused to recognize his status as an officer, would not provide him with a liturgical calendar or prayer rug and refused to tell him the time of day or the direction of Mecca.

On December 8, Captain Yee’s pre-trial proceedings began with his wife and four year old daughter in the courtroom. The purpose of that hearingwais to let the presiding officer hear the evidence and decide whether to dismiss all charges, subject the defendant to a general court-martial or do something in between.

The first witness for the prosecution was Lieutenant Karyn Wallace. She did not testify about the nature of the materials found in Captain Yee’s computer or the container in which they were placed. That is because by the time the trial began the charges against Captain Yee had been modified once again. On November 26 Captain Yee was charged with committing adultery and storing pornography on his government computer in addition to mishandling classified documents.

Lieutenant Wallace identified photographs showing her and Captain Yee embracing and described their relationship as sexual. Asked what that meant she said “We had sex together.” She said that had happened about 20 times. In return for testifying against her former lover, Lt. Wallace was granted immunity.

The hearing ended after one day because prosecutors wanted additional time to review and classify documents taken from Captain Yee when he was arrested. The four months that elapsed between arrest and trial was, they apparently discovered at the last minute, inadequate to enable them to proceed.

The hearing resumes January 19, 2004. Captain Yee is free and ministering to people in the military pending its resumption. The holidays have been ruined for everyone. The prosecution team will spend the holidays reviewing files to see if they can save the part of the prosecution that doesn’t pertain to smut. The Yees will have to review their marriage to see if it can be saved. The ends of justice have presumably been served although it’s not clear how.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a Boulder, Colorado lawyer. His column appears weekly in the Daily Camera. He can be reached at: brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail