BAGHDAD - A senior U.S. officer has been accused of aiding the enemy - a charge that carries the death penalty - 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 yesterday.
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 the period from October 2005 until February of this year - 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 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, Hutton said.
Besides the cell-phone accusation, Steele was charged with holding classified information without permission and with 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, situated 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. *