Someone must have traduced Joseph K.

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New at Reason: Captain James Yee was accused of spying against the United States. It turns out he was just looking at dirty pictures. Does he still deserve the death penalty? Jacob Sullum judges the rush to judgment.

NEXT: Stupid Lawsuit of the Day

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  1. I have become throroughly convinced that the inmates are running the asylum. So we go from espionage to dirty pictures oops I forgot the extra marital affair. I am retired military and I am ashamed of what they are doing to Capt Yee.
    The more I read and what the Crawford Village Idiot and his administration is doing to our country the more I am convinced that what this country needs is a good enema to get the shit for brains out of office.

  2. I don’t get the headline.

    Joseph Kennedy?

  3. joe-

    I think it’s a Kafka reference.

    I suppose a devil’s advocate could say something along the following lines:

    “In espionage cases the gov’t usually tries to get a defendant to plea bargain, because going to trial requires that the gov’t reveal classified information. It’s possible that Yee was involved in espionage, and that he revealed so much useful information that the gov’t has agreed to whitewash his case and give him an honorable discharge.”

    And we can’t rule that out. But unless we see some evidence of that, I’m inclined that it’s a case of bureaucrats being unable to admit they were wrong, so the need something, anything, to charge him with.

  4. Anyone else think “only hundreds of pics of porn?”

    must have burned the rest to CD 🙂

  5. Yeah, it’s the first line of “The Trial.” I’ve also seen it rendered “Someone must have been spreading lies about…” which I’d prefer as a standalone sentence on purely aesthetic grounds, but creates a very different feel to the opening.

  6. It was just announced that all charges against Lee have been dropped.

  7. Just saw the news myself.

    I think that is about as much as we can hope for an apology by the military.

    If anything that guy deserves a medal for putting up with this #&^#(# and staying in the military.

  8. Thoreau-

    Hmm, yes, I see your point. Well, I already said I don’t know how to word my law, but basically I want to avoid THIS scenario: suppose the government is investigating you because, they say, they think you are taking bribes or helping Al-Qaeda. You’re arrested, your name hits the papers, everybody in America hates you. . .and then it turns out you were NOT doing any of this. Oh, shit, says the government. We’ve put this guy through hell for the past several months, and if we admit he was innocent we’ll look like assholes. So we’ll charge him with. . .uh. . .let’s dig through his entire life and see what minor misdemeanors we can find.

    No matter who you are, SOMETHING will turn up, especially if you are in the military and can face criminal charges for things that are not otherwise illegal.

    I think you see what I’m talking about, here. Anybody have any suggestions of how to express such a law in words?

  9. [warsie]But if we allow heathen Muslims to get away with having sex with Christian women, that means the terrorists have won![/warsie]

  10. maybe it was *BAD* porno. you know, the picture of Janet Jackson’s codfish as a breast or something.

    Karl

  11. Even in dropping the charges, the government isn’t admitting it never had a case against Yee, but is claiming “national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence” as the reason for not prosecuting.

    The scary possibility is that the government will tell us next that since “national security concerns” are preventing the prosecution of spies, it will need to go to secret trials.

  12. I wish someone would pass a new law. I’m not sure exactly how to word it, but it’d be something like this: “If the government or military is investigating you for treason or any other serious felony, you can ONLY be charged with serious felonies relating to that investigation.”

    I’m sick of all these butt-saving charges: “Wen Ho Lee was spying for China and faces the possible death penalty. . . no, wait, we charged him with improper handling of a computer disc. James Yee was spying for Al-Qaeda and is guilty of treason. . . no, wait, he was just looking at naughty pictures.” Can’t nail them for treason? Charge them with jaywalking.

    How does that stupid song go?
    “Proud to be an American, where at least Ah know Ah’m free.
    That is, so long as my last name, doesn’t rhyme with ‘eee.'”

  13. Jennifer-

    There’s only one problem with your law: Say I’m a gov’t employee doing some good old-fashioned bribe-taking or embezzlement. It isn’t treason. (OK, it’s a betrayal, but not in the same sense as treason, even though it is a very serious crime.) But while doing my bribes or whatnot I make a point of having some clandestine meetings with an Arab guy. He isn’t a terrorist, just some random guy that I know. And when I meet with him I hand him (empty) manilla folders with the word “Secret” stamped on them and some computer disks (blank). Sure looks like I’m a spy.

    But all I’m doing is taking bribes from defense contractors to make sure their no-bid cost-plus contracts aren’t scrutinized. And the gov’t would look really silly for starting off saying “Thoreau is at the center of a massive spy ring bigger than even the Rosenbergs or Benedict Arnold” and finishing with “Thoreau took $40k to cover-up some cost over-runs by Halliburton.”

    Then again, if I’m going to cover for Halliburton I guess there are easier ways to avoid getting charged. For instance, I could become Vice President…

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