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Guantanamo Charges Dropped

Colonel Among Suspects in Alleged Security Breaches

Reuters
Friday, September 17, 2004; Page A03

The Army has dropped all charges against a colonel who had served as an intelligence officer at the Guantanamo prison and had been accused of trying to take classified material from the base, officials said yesterday.

Army Reserve Col. Jackie Duane Farr was the highest ranking of three U.S. service members charged in 2003 in connection with suspected security breaches at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding about 585 foreign terrorism suspects.

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All charges have now been dropped against Farr and Army Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain who ministered to prisoners, while the prosecution case against Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad Halabi, an Arabic language translator, has run into trouble.

The Army dropped the charges against Farr of disobeying an order by transporting classified material without the proper security container and of making a false statement during an investigation, said Army Maj. Hank McIntire, a spokesman at the Guantanamo base.

Instead, Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of the Guantanamo prison, imposed a "nonjudicial punishment" in an administrative proceeding on Aug. 27, McIntire said.

The charges were dropped "to more quickly resolve the matter to serve the best interests of the military and Colonel Farr," McIntire said. He added that there will be no further action taken against Farr.

McIntire declined to reveal the nature of the punishment given to Farr. "Because of the Privacy Act, we can't give the specifics of anything that was imposed. We can just say it was resolved nonjudicially," McIntire said.

Farr, who had directed the intelligence-gathering operation of U.S. personnel who interrogated Guantanamo prisoners, could have faced as many as seven years in prison had he been convicted.

The Army has approved Yee's resignation from the military effective in January and will grant him an honorable discharge, said Eugene Fidell, Yee's lawyer. Yee is stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state.

Fidell said the U.S. military owes Yee an apology.

"He -- an officer and a chaplain -- was subjected to 76 days of pretrial confinement that was completely unjustified," Fidell said.

"The government's position is that it seemed like the right thing at the time. Even if that position were well founded, once you realized that it wasn't the right thing, then you have the obligation to say, 'We're sorry.' "

In March, the Army dropped all criminal charges against Yee, abandoning an espionage case that once included accusations of spying, mutiny, sedition and aiding the enemy.

Yee's exoneration was completed in April when the head of the U.S. Southern Command dismissed Yee's noncriminal convictions on charges of adultery and of storing pornographic images on a government computer.

Military prosecutors have already dropped 14 of the 30 charges brought against Halabi. Hearings on motions before his planned court-martial at Travis Air Force Base in California had been scheduled for this past Tuesday and then for yesterday. They have been rescheduled for Monday.


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