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January 6, 2004 > Justice for New Americans Defense Fund Kick-off Campaign

Justice for New Americans Defense Fund Kick-off Campaign

Muslim Chaplain Falsely Accused of Being a Spy

by Reshma Yunus

Justice for New Americans (J4NA), a locally based civil rights organization whose mission is "To eliminate the biases that exist in this country, based on an erroneous perception of 'perpetual foreigners,' through grass roots education and public advocacy" is holding a Defense Fund Kick-Off Campaign on January 10th, 2004. The funds raised will provide assistance to individuals wrongly accused based on ethnic or other types of profiling.

The organization's president, Cecilia L. Chang, a tri-city resident and fiery advocate of wrongly accused Scientist Wen Ho Lee, has taken up the gauntlet for another falsely accused individual - Captain James Yee. Captain James Yee, a U.S. Army Muslim chaplain, was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to minister to the inmates. Captain Yee was secretly arrested on September 10, 2003, on suspicion of espionage, without being formally charged until a month later, by the US Army. "He was imprisoned for 76 days with chains and irons in solitary confinement next to the alleged "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla," Ms. Chang said.

On October 10th, he was finally charged with "a general order of mishandling classified information". Captain Yee, a West Point Graduate, and a member of the Chaplain Corps, was eventually released late November after much uproar from J4NA and a coalition of other civic organizations. J4NA and his military defense lawyer asked for his release since the charges were minor and did not warrant confinement in a maximum-security brig.

Cecilia Chang, is spearheading Captain Yee's defense as she sees many of the same injustices inflicted on James Yee as with Dr. Wen Ho Lee. Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, Dr. Lee, a naturalized citizen, was indicted with 59 counts of mishandling classified information in 1999 and kept for nearly ten months in solitary confinement without evidence that warranted his arrest. Dr. Albert Wang, another local supporter of Dr. Wen Ho Lee stated, "Wen Ho Lee ultimately admitted to one count of mishandling classified information and was sentenced to time served. This was a plea bargain to get him out of jail as soon as possible. The significant event was that the Judge apologized to Dr. Lee for being misled into putting him in harsh confinement conditions by the prosecution and the national lab."

Ms. Chang explained how she got involved advocating for Captain Yee, "I never have time to watch TV but one day I happened to turn it on and what caught my attention was this Chinese face and the label underneath denouncing him as an "alleged spy". Suddenly, I felt like I was seeing Wen Ho Lee all over again," she said. "The Media, building on leaked information, had convicted Wen Ho Lee even before he was tried and I saw the same thing happening to Captain Yee." . She was outraged at the sensationalized reporting and blatant yellow journalism displayed by the press. "The witch hunt began on September 20th when the Washington Times headlines screamed "Islamic Chaplain is charged as Spy" before Captain James Yes had even been formally charged! "She exclaimed.

Ms. Chang stated to Tri-City Voice, "According to Mr. Fidell, James Yee's civilian defense lawyer at the time he was arrested, Captain Yee was carrying two pocket size notebooks, a type written page and a term paper on Syria that he had written during college for a course on International Affairs. None of this information was ever categorized as classified even after his imprisonment for 76 days." Ms. Chang pointed out the blatant differential treatment received by Captain James Yee, compared to others charged with a similar offense. She said, "Colonel Jack Farr, also of Guantanamo Bay, was charged with exactly the same thing as Captain Yee, but was not arrested or even suspended!"

Justice for New Americans and a coalition of other civic and civil rights organizations which had formed to support Captain Yee cheered when he was released in late November 2003, and claimed victory. Justice for New Americans November 30th press release quotes Professor Ling-chi Wang, of UC Berkeley's ethnic studies department and also a supporter of Weh Ho Lee as saying, "From the beginning, I questioned the government's case against him and the political intention behind the leaked charges of espionage and treason. By releasing him, the government has effectively admitted that it never had a case against Captain Yee."

The Army is still charging Captain Yee with two counts of mishandling classified documents, one of which is reportedly the term paper on Syria. He is also accused of adultery and having pornography on a government computer. These charges are viewed by Justice for New Americans and other supporters as "ridiculous" and as the government's way of attempting to "save face" as well as ruin the career of Captain Yee as it did to Wen Ho Lee," Ms Chang said. "This is a clearly an attempt to besmirch his reputation as a Muslim Chaplain and engage in character assassination of an upstanding citizen. Out of five siblings, three went into the military. That's a loyal American family! Captain James Yee is a West Point Graduate, a role model and he is being treated in a totally unjust manner," she said.

Ms. Chang pointed out another blatant incident of differential treatment. She said that Captain Yee's attorney, Mr. Fidell, had been sent information by the Army prosecuting attorney related to the case. A short while later, army personnel had to shamefacedly ask for it back as they admitted that the prosecuting attorney had inadvertently sent him "classified" information. Mr. Fidell, Ms. Chang said, exclaimed if the prosecuting attorney had mishandled "classified" information by sending it to the incorrect person, he should be subjected to the same charges and treatment as Captain Yee. "I applaud Mr. Fidell for pointing out that there should be equal treatment under the law. Otherwise there is a double standard of law in America as many new Americans like Dr. Wen Ho Lee experienced," she said. "And that is why we will fight till all the charges are dropped.".

To find out more about Justice for New Americans, visit the website at or call 510-537-2929. The public is invited to attend the Defense Fund Kick off Campaign on Saturday January 10, 2004 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Crowne Plaza, 1221 Chess Drive, Foster City, Ca 94404. In attendance will be Mr. Eugene Fidell, Captain Yee's defense lawyer and Yee's parents. Tickets are $25 per person, $15 per student (Not Taxable Deductible Donation).

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