U.S. Officer Accused of 'Aiding Enemy' in
By DAMIEN CAVE
Published: April 27, 2007
BAGHDAD, April 26 The American military has charged a top commander at its main detention center here with nine violations of military law, including "aiding the enemy," a rare and serious accusation that could carry a death sentence.
According to a military statement released Thursday, the officer, Lt. Col. William H. Steele, provided aid to the enemy between Oct. 1, 2005, and Oct. 31, 2006, "by providing an unmonitored cellular phone to detainees" at Camp Cropper, an expansive prison near Baghdad International Airport that held Saddam Hussein before he was hanged.
Colonel Steele, who oversaw one of several compounds at Camp Cropper as commander of the 451st Military Police Detachment, was also charged with several counts of illegally storing and marking classified information; failure to obey an order; possession of pornographic videos; dereliction of duty regarding government funds; and conduct unbecoming of an officer for fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee since 2005, and for maintaining "an inappropriate relationship" with an interpreter in 2005 and 2006.
There were no further details given to explain the circumstances of the accusations.
Military officials said that Colonel Steele was detained last month and was now in
"Is there enough evidence or information that this needs to go to a court-martial?" said Lt. Col. Josslyn L. Aberle, a military spokeswoman. "That's where we're at right now."
Walter Huffman, a former Army judge advocate general and now the dean of the Texas Tech University law school, said that a death sentence was unlikely, because to convict Colonel Steele of the most severe form of aiding the enemy, prosecutors would have to show that he intentionally endangered American troops or missions. In this particular case, he added, that would mean proving that he knew the cellphone was being used to make calls that would put Americans at risk. "That is a difficult charge to prove," he said.
Mr. Huffman, who emphasized that he had not seen the specific charges or details of Colonel Steele's case, said the fraternization charge sounded as if it was not code for sex but rather a reference to the simple impropriety of regular contact with a detainee's relative. That would take on added seriousness in a Muslim country, where speaking to young women outside of one's family is considered highly inappropriate.
He added that Colonel Steele's rank and supervisory role at
Regardless of the outcome, the case amounts to another public relations bruise for the American detention system.
But it has had its share of problems. Several detainees there have died mysteriously in the past year, with the most recent death occurring April 4. The causes of death for these detainees are rarely divulged.
The arrests and treatment of detainees at Camp Cropper is also the subject of a lawsuit filed in 2006 by an American security contractor who said he was unjustly held and mistreated at the prison after acting as an informant for the F.B.I. in cases involving corruption within the contracting company he worked for. A second plaintiff with a similar claim added his name to the complaint in February.
Colonel Steele appears to be only the second American officer accused of collaborating with the enemy since the war in Iraq started four years ago.
In September 2003, Capt. James J. Yee, a Muslim chaplain at the Guantánamo detention center in
North of Baghdad, two Iraqi women and two children were believed to have been killed in an American airstrike that killed four insurgents, according to a military statement.
Soldiers were searching for car-bomb factories near Taji when they came under small-arms fire, the statement said. The soldiers called in an airstrike and later discovered all eight bodies at the destroyed building.
Citing the weapons in the building, a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, blamed Al Qaeda in
The police said a suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle south of Khalis, in
In Baghdad, 26 bodies were found, a higher daily toll than in the first few weeks of the two-month-old security push, and roadside bombs, mortar attacks and car bombs across the capital killed at least 11 people and wounded scores more, according to an Interior Ministry official.
In northern Iraq, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party near Mosul, killing three people and wounding 13, according to the mayor of Tal Afar, a city about 30 miles to the south.
The police also said gunmen in Tikrit had stormed the home of Hashim al-Majeed, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, and shot and killed his wife and daughter. Mr. Majeed, who disappeared soon after Mr. Hussein's ouster in 2003, was not at home.
Reporting was contributed by Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedi, Qais Mizher and Iraqi employees of The New York Times in
First Appeared in The New York Times