The Army used a megaphone to announce the arrest of Capt. James Yee as a spying suspect last October. It dismissed the criminal case with a whisper last Friday night, its timing designed to minimize the effect of the news. This week, foolishly digging itself a deeper hole, the Army issued a written reprimand to Yee, a Muslim chaplain who ministered to prisoners at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Yee was chastised not for espionage but for dredged-up charges of adultery and downloading pornography. The Army should revoke the reprimand, apologize to the captain and wipe away some of the slime it has thrown. The Army claimed it dropped the charges because it feared exposing sensitive information required to prove a criminal case.
Military and civilian prosecutors have convicted spies many times by winning trials or getting guilty pleas without divulging classified material. Lawyers can be cleared to see classified material, and some hearings can be held behind closed doors. No, these charges were dismissed because the Army botched the case.
Prosecutors delivered classified materials to a defense lawyer not cleared to see them and dithered over just what documents were sensitive. The original suspicion of espionage evaporated quickly. Yee was charged with taking classified information home, not with transmitting it to anyone, and eventually even the allegations of mishandling classified material were dropped.