BAGHDAD – A U.S. lieutenant colonel has been referred to a court-martial on charges he "aided the enemy" by allowing detainees at an Iraqi prison to use his cell phone to make unmonitored calls, the military said Thursday. The offense could carry the death penalty.
Lt. Col. William H. Steele, a former military police commander at the Camp Cropper prison where Saddam Hussein and other top detainees were held, is also accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a female interpreter, failing to obey orders and possessing pornographic videos.
At a hearing in Baghdad last month, witnesses testified that Steele approved buying Cuban cigars for Saddam, fraternized with a detainee's daughter, used his service pistol to intimidate tower guards, and improperly stored classified information.
The 51-year-old Army reservist from Prince George, Va., has been in custody since March.
The U.S. military said the charges were referred to a general court-martial on Sunday, and were served to Steele on Tuesday. The government must wait five days before arraigning him, it said.
The military had the option of recommending that no action be taken, that some or all of the charges be dismissed, or that a court-martial be held.
The alleged incidents took place from October 2005 to February 2007, starting when Steele was commander of the 451st Military Police Detachment at Camp Cropper prison and in his later post as a senior patrol officer at nearby Camp Victory with the 89th Military Police Brigade.
Saddam was held at Camp Cropper until he was hanged by Iraqi authorities in December.
The only other U.S. officer known to have been accused of collaborating with the enemy since the start of the Iraq war was Capt. James J. Yee, a Muslim chaplain who was linked to a possible espionage ring at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison.
He was eventually cleared and given an honorable discharge.