Punishment First, Vindication Later


All charges against Capt. James Yee have now been dropped, including those related to the adultery and pornography offenses that were discovered during the government's fruitless search for evidence of espionage. You might have missed the story (I almost did), since Yee's vindication did not receive nearly as much press attention as his arrest and confinement. In fact, the Miami Herald reports that Gen. James T. Hill, head of the U.S. Southern Command, decided to dismiss the last remaining charges against Yee and remove the resulting reprimand from his record "because of the personal and professional stigma already experienced by Yee because of extensive media coverage of the case."

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  1. Yet, this country fears foreign terrorists and crazed, ax weilding druggy’s ready to kill you to get a fix!

    A single cop following me scares me more than a bus filled with muslim men between the ages of 15 and 47!

  2. I understand the folks at Reason are always on the lookout for abuses of government power, and as a subscriber since about 1978, I think that’s generally a good thing. However, we don’t know what really happened behind the scenes in this case. I doubt the military just decided on a whim to charge this guy in the first place, so I suspect there may have been some fire under all the smoke. The military may well have evidence against him that they couldn’t use in court, or that they didn’t want to use because it would reveal counterespionage secrets. Heck, for all we know, Yee might have been guilty as sin, cut a deal, and now be operating as a double agent.

    We are in a war right now, and won’t know the full truth about events like this for many years.

  3. The only thing that suprises me about this is that dropping of charges is getting press.

    PapyaSF, I recall having that reaction when I first read that the case was falling apart. SOMETHING convinced the military that secrets were getting from Gitmo to the Middle East.

    It’s too bad they grabbed up a perfectly innocent guy because of his religion, though. Not good for their credibility.

  4. This is similar to what happened to the Atlanta Olympic bombing suspect (Richard Jewel – I think) He was trashed by the FBI, and then was released. I don’t know if anyone paid any price for such recklessness, or if the guy sued the FBI for damages.

    There is also the story of a scientist suspected in the anthrax case – the FBI had made up their mind that it was him and pretty much screwed up his life, without actually charging him.

    Is there a law that prevents these victims from suing for damages and collecting from the govt?

  5. Yee’s vindication has been pretty well covered. There’s only so much officials can do to fix his reputation beyond giving him an clean bill of health. And as long as these officials act properly within their mandate, they can’t be sued.

    It’s really the press that’s more responsible for hurting reputations. Some have suggested that vindications be required to get as much space as the original allegations, but this has been, properly, rejected on First Amendment grounds. Of course, since this Court thinks they can regulate political speech during elections, maybe they’ll be willing to revisit this issue, and so much speech will be chilled that it won’t be worth reading newspapers anymore.

  6. Jacob:

    Capt. Yee will likely be on the mysterious do-not-fly list until his dying days. Eternal punishment…

  7. … and it further alienates Muslim-Americans.

    But hey, at least we repaired our error faster than the French did in the Dreyfus affair.

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