WASHINGTON – The Pentagon (search)'s inspector general will investigate the treatment of a Muslim chaplain imprisoned in solitary confinement for 76 days and then cleared in an espionage probe at Guantanamo Bay, according to a letter to lawmakers released Wednesday.
House and Senate Democrats have been pushing for the probe of the case of Capt. James Yee (search), who submitted his resignation to the Army on Monday.
Yee was arrested last year and charged with mishandling classified material and other crimes in a suspected espionage ring at the Naval base prison in Cuba, but the criminal charges were later dropped. He was then reprimanded for adultery and downloading pornography, but an Army general threw out that reprimand.
"We will conduct an investigation into the issues raised with respect to your correspondence," John R. Crane, an assistant inspector general, wrote in a July 29 letter to House Democrats who sought the investigation. He wrote that because of "other ongoing and urgent matters" the investigation would start in the fall rather than immediately.
Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rose-Ann Lynch confirmed the contents of the letter but declined to comment further.
Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (search), welcomed the development.
"I am deeply concerned that Chaplain Yee did not receive appropriate legal treatment by the U.S. Army in its investigation into his alleged wrongdoings," Honda said. "For many members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander American community, this case has elements that are painfully reminiscent of the case of Dr. Wen Ho Lee (search), who suffered character assassination as a result of false allegations brought against him."
Lee, a former engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory (search), was accused by the federal government of spying for China, indicted on 59 counts and confined to solitary confinement before pleading guilty to a single charge of mishandling classified data. The government dropped the other 58 counts.
Yee is seeking to be discharged from the Army on Jan. 7, after which he plans to finish his master's degree in international relations at Troy State University, which has a campus near his home base of Fort Lewis, Wash., said his attorney Eugene R. Fidell.
"I think it's an excellent development, it's overdue, and it's unfortunate it's going to have to wait, but it's clear that the IG has quite a full plate right now with all the investigations swirling around," Fidell said of the planned investigation. "I'm glad that Chaplain Yee's case is in the mix."