A Muslim Army chaplain accused of mishandling classified documents at the U.S. detention facility for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was expected to return to active duty soon after the facility’s commander dropped all charges Friday.
The chaplain, Capt. James Yee, was arrested in September at the airport in Jacksonville, Fla., and spent 76 days in custody after the military initially linked him to a possible espionage ring at the naval base in Cuba where terror suspects are held.
Yee was charged with mishandling classified material, failing to obey an order, making a false official statement, adultery and conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly downloading pornography on his government laptop computer.
Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, commander of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay, dismissed the more serious charges Friday, citing national security concerns that would arise from the release of evidence, the Defense Department said in a statement it issued Friday night.
Miller essentially also dropped the lesser charges relating to pornography and adultery Friday, offering Yee nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in lieu of a court-martial.
Minor punishment, possibly none
Had he been convicted of all charges at a court-martial, Yee could have faced dismissal from the Army and as long as 14 years in prison. Under Article 15, which addresses minor infractions, he could face only a reduction in rank, temporary restriction to base, extra duty or no punishment at all.
The Army said Yee would probably return to regular duty at Fort Lewis, Wash., after any Article 15 proceeding, the results of which he could appeal.
Supporters of Yee had complained that the adultery and pornography accusations were frivolous and unfair, saying the government was piling on after it failed to build a capital espionage case against him.
Michael Greenberger, a senior counterterrorism official in the Clinton administration, said earlier this week, when reports of a possible settlement in the case began circulating, that the Army would be smart to back off and minimize its embarrassment.
“Frankly, this case seems to have been ill-founded from the start,” Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland, told The Associated Press. “I think it would not be surprising at all that the U.S. would want to cut their losses.”
By MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson with NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski in Washington.