Colonel Accused of Aiding Enemy in Iraq
Apr 26, 5:41 PM EDT
Colonel Accused of Aiding Enemy in Iraq
By KIM GAMEL
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD (AP) -- A U.S. officer has been accused of
aiding the enemy - a charge that carries the death
penalty - for allegedly providing an unmonitored cell
phone to detainees while he commanded an MP detachment
at the jail that held Saddam Hussein, the military
Army Lt. Col. William H. Steele faces nine charges in
all, including fraternizing with a prisoner's
daughter, storing and marking classified material,
maintaining an inappropriate relationship with an
interpreter and possessing pornographic videos.
The rare charges were among the most serious levied
against a senior American officer in Iraq, but were
the latest in a series of embarrassments for the U.S.
military detention system here.
The alleged incidents occurred from October 2005 to
this February, starting when Steele was commander of
the 451st Military Police Detachment at Camp Cropper
on the western outskirts of Baghdad and in his later
post as a senior patrol officer for the provincial
transition team headquarters at nearby Camp Victory,
the main U.S. military base.
Steele was detained in March and is being held in
Kuwait pending an Article 32 hearing, the military
equivalent of a grand jury hearing, officials said.
His age and hometown were not released.
The U.S. military command declined to comment on the
case but stressed nothing had been proven. "These are
troublesome allegations, but again they are just
allegations at the moment," the main U.S. military
spokesman, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, told The
Associated Press Radio.
The most serious charge, aiding the enemy, was tied to
Steele's time at the jail at Camp Cropper.
Military officials refused to give any details about
the charge, including who used the phone and how.
Saddam spent most of his final days at the Camp
Cropper jail before his Dec. 30 execution at an Iraqi
military base in northern Baghdad, and many members of
his regime remain among the facility's 3,000 or so
A new, $60 million jail opened at the base in August
and many inmates were transferred there from Abu
Ghraib prison, which was closed and transferred to
Iraqi control after gaining notoriety for widely
publicized photographs of American guards and
interrogators abusing detainees.
Steele served at Camp Cropper from October 2005
through the end of October 2006, after which he
transferred to Camp Victory with the 89th Military
Police Brigade, said a military spokesman, Lt. Col.
James Hutton. He was arrested while based at Camp
Victory, the spokesman said.
Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of
Military Justice, said the charge of aiding the enemy
"could cover a multitude of sins," but he said a
prosecutor would be hard pressed to get a death
sentence without showing "evidence that the purpose
was really to aid the enemy and hurt our side."
However, he added, Steele could be found guilty
regardless of his intent in loaning the phone to a
detainee - "even if he thought the detainee was
calling his wife's allergist" - as long as the phone
calls helped the detainee or some enemy.
Steele also is accused of fraternizing with the
daughter of a detainee toward the end of his tenure at
Camp Cropper and during his subsequent posting at Camp
Other charges stemming from his tenure at Camp Victory
include failing to obey an order by an MP deputy
commander and possessing pornographic videos. He also
is charged with failing to fulfill his obligations in
the expenditure of funds, the military said without
Hutton declined to provide more details on the
charges, saying the investigation was still under way.
In a similar case, a Muslim chaplain in the Army,
Capt. James Yee, was charged in 2003 with mishandling
classified material, failing to obey an order, making
a false official statement, adultery and conduct
unbecoming an officer after the military linked him to
a possible espionage ring at the Guantanamo Bay prison
where suspected terrorists are housed.
All criminal charges were dismissed in March 2004, but
Army officials found Yee guilty of the non-criminal
charges of adultery and downloading pornography. But
the reprimand he received was thrown out by a general
a month later and he later received an honorable
Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo in New York
contributed to this report.