U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Who Commanded Baghdad Detention Center Charged With 'Aiding the Enemy'

A senior U.S. officer has been charged with nine offenses, including aiding the enemy and fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee while he commanded a military police detachment at the American detention facility where Saddam Hussein had been held, the military said Thursday.

Army Lt. Col. William H. Steele was the commander of the 451st Military Police Detachment at Camp Cropper on the western outskirts of Baghdad when he was accused of giving "aid to the enemy" by providing an unmonitored cell phone to detainees.

But some of the charges — which spanned from October 2005 and February — also stemmed from his most recent position in a provincial transition team headquartered at Camp Victory, the main U.S. military base near the detention center, military spokesman Lt. Col. James Hutton said.

Steele, who was detained in March, was being held in Kuwait pending an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing, military officials said.

The other charges included unauthorized possession of classified information, fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee, maintaining an inappropriate relationship with an interpreter, storing classified information in his quarters and possessing pornographic videos, the military said.

Steele also was charged with improperly marking classified information, failing to obey an order and failing to fulfill his obligations in the expenditure of funds, the military said.

"These are troublesome allegations but again they are just allegations at the moment," U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told The Associated Press in a radio interview.

Steele was 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, the position he held when he was detained.

Among the charges, Steele was accused of providing an unmonitored cell phone to detainees throughout his tenure at Camp Cropper, and of holding classified information without permission and of failing to obey an order in his subsequent position, according to the dates provided by Hutton.

He allegedly "knowingly and wrongfully" fraternized with the daughter of a detainee in late October and late February and he had an "inappropriate relationship with an interpreter around Dec. 1, 2005, and Dec. 11, 2006, the military said.

Hutton declined to provide more details on the charges as the investigation was under way.

Camp Cropper, located near the Baghdad airport, replaced the notorious Abu Ghraib prison as the main detention facility in the capital area. Saddam was held there before his Dec. 30 execution, as are several other charged former members of his regime still facing charges.

Abu Ghraib had been tainted by widely publicized photographs of prisoner abuse by American military guards and interrogators, leading to a wide-scale investigation that resulted in convictions and dismissals against a number of U.S. soldiers.

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