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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Air Force Member in Custody Two Weeks Prior to Yee Arrest

Aired September 23, 2003 - 12:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is over at the Pentagon. She's getting new information on U.S. Army Captain James Yee, suspected of perhaps engaged in espionage, maybe even treason, having just returned from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he is a Muslim chaplain in the U.S. Army.
Barbara -- what are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN has confirmed that another person is in military custody. Multiple sources have confirmed to CNN that an Air Force man, a person in the U.S. Air Force, was taken into custody at Guantanamo Bay approximately one month ago, about two weeks before Captain James Yee was taken into custody.

Now, this Air Force man apparently, we are told, had classified information on a laptop computer about the detainees, about the entire facility at Guantanamo Bay. When questioned, he did not have a good reason about why he had this classified information. And he has been taken into custody by the military for questioning.

We have also been told by multiple sources that this man -- and this a bit delicate to say -- this man has an Arab-sounding name. He is a member of the U.S. Air Force. What we do not know is whether he was converted to Islam at some point and adopted another name, or whether he was born in America. We simply don't have those details at the moment.

We can tell you the investigation continues to broaden. What the military is looking at is, No. 1, whether there is a direct connection between this Air Force man and his time at Guantanamo Bay and Captain James Yee. And we can also confirm to you that multiple sources have told us other people in the U.S. military are being looked at.

What is not clear is the scope of this situation, whether or not there was some organized espionage effort at Guantanamo Bay or there are simply a number of people who engaged in some sort of suspicious activity of having classified information that they should not have had. But so far, sources tell us none of these people involved have offered a good explanation about why they had it.

So, one additional Air Force person in custody for the last month for suspicious behavior at Guantanamo Bay, and we can confirm to you the investigation continues, and there is a possibility, we are told, of more arrests.

And we should add that Air Force person has not had any charges filed against him at this time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Captain Yee hasn't had any charges formally filed against him either.

STARR: Absolutely.

BLITZER: But the sequence of this is interesting that a month or so ago this Air Force person was arrested, was questioned, and then only a few days ago Captain Yee was picked up as he returned from Guantanamo Bay to a base in Florida. Is that right?

STARR: That is correct, Wolf. Now, multiple sources, again, have told us this morning they do not believe yet that there is any proven connection by investigators between these men, but they simply don't know. They are questioning both of them. They are looking at other people that they do believe are involved, but they don't have what one person called airtight case.

So, it should be understood in the military justice system, people can be held for 120 days, and they are often held -- this is very typical -- for some considerable period of time before any charges are filed. The military typically does not go to the prosecution stage unless they're very sure they have a solid case against their suspects.

So, this is how you would expect this to proceed. The people would be taken into confinement, and the investigation would continue.

BLITZER: CNN's Barbara Starr with that important information for us. Barbara, thanks very much.

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