- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Military officials this week began an internal review of security measures at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp, saying immediate recommendations could be made to reinforce or correct procedures.

A spokesman for U.S. Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo, said the review was prompted by the arrests of two translators and a Muslim chaplain on suspicions of espionage at the prison camp.

The suspects each worked closely with the mainly Muslim, non-English-speaking population of about 660 detainees held at Guantanamo as enemy combatants in the U.S.-led global war on terror.

Steve Lucas, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command, said a 10- to 12-member team sent to review security measures at Guantanamo was set up in coordination with ongoing investigations at the prison camp.

“We’ve got a lot of valuable information that has come out of the detainee facility,” he said. “If that information’s value is being diminished or compromised by agents hostile to the United States then that’s obviously something we want to address.”

The latest arrest in the Guantanamo espionage came Monday at Boston’s Logan International Airport, where authorities apprehended Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, 31. He’s been accused of possessing a compact disc containing a classified document from Guantanamo.

Last week, authorities charged Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, 24, with espionage on suspicion he sent classified information about Guantanamo to an unspecified “enemy.” Another suspect is Army Capt. James J. Yee, 35, a Muslim chaplain being detained so far without charge at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.

Sources said the men were arrested for fear they may reveal classified information about Guantanamo or its detainees to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror network.

Mr. Mehalba, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Egypt, briefly served in the U.S. Army from November 2000 through May 2001, but never reached a rank higher than private. At the time of his arrest, he was employed by the San Diego-based military contractor Titan Corp., which provides translators for Army officials interrogating detainees.

He was worked as a translator at Guantanamo from November 2002 until July of this year. Titan Corp. spokesman Wil Williams said Mr. Mehalba went on emergency leave in July at his own request to respond to a family matter.

Mr. Williams said Mr. Mehalba had undergone Titan Corp.’s standard health and criminal checks before being hired.

The Army also conducted a security check of Mr. Mehalba, according to Mr. Lucas, who added that it was believed Mr. Mehalba was returning from his personal leave to go back to work at Guantanamo when he was arrested.

If convicted of a charge filed in U.S. District Court in Boston of making false statements to federal investigators, Mr. Mehalba could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. On Monday, he entered no plea to the charge and was detained pending a hearing on Wednesday.


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