For 10 months, Army Chaplain James J. "Yousef" Yee was the designated Muslim confidant for the 660 prisoners of Camp Delta, the Pentagon's seaside Cuban prison for alleged al-Qaida foot soldiers captured in Afghanistan.
He listened to their gripes, counseled them in matters of faith, and passed along requests for special dietary and religious needs. While American interrogators sometimes sought his advice on what incentives might loosen the lips of prisoners, Yee made it clear that he wasn't in the business of informing on his charges. And apparently that was OK with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, commander of the task force of 2,800 soldiers and civilians who run Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay.
"General Miller has given me guidance," Yee said in an interview last month. "He told me he never intends to use me in any way as an intelligence source, just as in battle the chaplain never carries a weapon."
But by the time Yee returned to the United States two weeks ago on a flight from Guantanamo Bay, military authorities suspected he had been doing just that - acting as an intelligence source - for the other side.
Last weekend's news of Yee's arrest, followed by reports Tuesday that an Air Force translator at Camp Delta, Ahmad I. Al-Halabi, had been charged with espionage, and yesterday's revelation that an unnamed member of the Navy assigned there was under investigation, has focused new and unwanted attention on the prison complex, if only by showing how easily even the most cloistered location - a naval base on a remote corner of President Fidel Castro's Cuba - can spring security leaks.
The issue is especially problematic for the Pentagon if one of the leaks turns out to be Yee, a West Point graduate and captain in the regular Army.
As recently as Aug. 20, the Army was offering Yee for interviews as part of its closely escorted media tours of Guantanamo. From the Pentagon perspective he seemed to be the perfect mouthpiece, speaking only in the most general terms of his duties even when pressed for specifics, and never straying onto sensitive ground.
Cordial but taciturn, his carefully chosen words left some reporters convinced he was clamming up on behalf of his security-conscious superior officers.
One reporter asked if he ever discussed Quranic interpretations with the prisoners, especially those who believed that they had been called to kill in the name of God.
"A chaplain's role is to facilitate freedom of worship," he responded blandly, "and that's where I focus my efforts."
Did he and the prisoners ever discuss doctrinal differences in the various branches of Islam?
"There is only one Islam."
How did he counsel prisoners who might be suicidal?
"One thing you should realize is that Muslims rely on principles of patience and perseverance ... and [that] God will never put a burden on you that is too great to bear."
Had any prisoners expressed regret for the path they'd chosen?
"My biggest concern is what kind of things I can implement which will help them be better able to practice their religion."
Of course, such answers can now seem more cryptic than evasive when plotted against the backdrop of his arrest. But Yee was also saying all the right things well before he arrived at Camp Delta.
In an interview a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Yee told Scripps Howard News Service that "an act of terrorism, the taking of innocent civilian lives, is prohibited by Islam, and whoever has done this needs to be brought to justice, whether he is Muslim or not."
Yet, one day before the second anniversary of Sept. 11, Yee was arrested upon his arrival from Guantanamo at the naval air station in Jacksonville, Fla. Military investigators interrogated him, searched his luggage and sent him to the brig in Charleston, S.C., where officials are also holding Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American-born Saudi who allegedly fought alongside the Taliban, and Jose Padilla, who has been charged with trying to obtain radioactive materials to build a "dirty bomb."
According to news reports, Yee had with him lists with names of prisoners and interrogators, and diagrams of facilities at Guantanamo. But none of the reports suggested how detailed the diagrams were, and maps depicting the layout of the Guantanamo base are routinely handed out to reporters.
All of this could mean either that Yee is a great actor or the victim of overzealous investigators. If the former is true, he would represent a colossal blunder by Pentagon security screening.
According to wire service reports and Pentagon officials, Yee grew up in suburban Springfield, N.J., the son of Chinese immigrants who reared him as a Lutheran. He graduated from West Point in 1990 and served as an air defense artillery officer until the mid-1990s, when he left the Army.