Former Army chaplain thanks Islamic group

Published Oct. 2, 2005|Updated Nov. 7, 2005

Former Army Capt. James Yee won't talk about the 76 days he spent in solitary confinement after being arrested on suspicions of espionage.

He won't talk about his days as a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, where some some fellow soldiers and officers turned on him.

He won't speak out about his honorable discharge from the Army and how he feels about the whole thing.

That's because Yee, now almost a year removed from the ordeal, has a book coming out on Thursday. It is titled For God and Country, and anyone who wants the inside scoop must buy it.

Yee would, however, talk Saturday night about how much the Council on American-Islamic Relations helped him and his family cope with the various charges he faced, all of which were eventually dropped when the military's investigation came up short.

Yee, 37, was a guest speaker at Saturday night's CAIR-Florida

Chapter banquet at the Convention Center, where a few hundred people attended to support civil liberties for the Islamic community.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio attended and also couldn't talk, but not by her own choice.

She had a bad case of laryngitis and could barely say in a raspy voice, "I want all of you to know how much I appreciate being here tonight and all of the good work that you do."

She turned the stage over to Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor, who read Iorio's proclamation of Oct. 1 as "CAIR Day" and thanked the council for its contributions to hurricane relief funding and supporting the county's health care program.

Then it was Yee's turn to speak.

He praised CAIR for rushing to his side after his Sept. 10, 2003, arrest in Jacksonville.

"It's important to realize we live in historical times," Yee said. "What happened to me could happen to anyone here tonight."

Yee, a Chinese-American and a 1990 West Point graduate, was serving as a chaplain attending to the religious needs of the 650 detainees at Guantanamo Bay and as an adviser on Islamic affairs to prison authorities after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He fell under suspicion of revealing secrets about the Navy jail for terror suspects and was charged with spying for Syria, among other offenses.

Army officials eventually dropped all charges, and Yee's story is often cited as an example of military security anxiety gone awry.

Yee said he was especially grateful for CAIR's efforts keep his story alive, even after he was released from prison.

"You saw the news when I was put into prison," Yee said. "But what happened to the news when I was out?"