- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2003


The Air Force translator accused of espionage at the prison camp for terror suspects was under investigation before he arrived at the Guantanamo Bay base, a military investigator says.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) began looking into the case of Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi in November 2002 while he was a supply clerk at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., the agent wrote in court documents. Airman Al-Halabi was sent to the Cuban base weeks later as an Arabic-language interpreter for the al Qaeda and Taliban suspects there.

Airman Al-Halabi, 24, now is charged with espionage for reportedly e-mailing classified information about the prison camp to an unspecified “enemy” and planning to give other secrets about the prison to someone traveling to Syria. He is one of two military members at the prison camp to be arrested during an investigation of possible security breaches.

The other suspect, Army Capt. James J. Yee, a Muslim chaplain, is being held without charge at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Airman al-Halabi is behind bars at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., forbidden to speak Arabic.

OSI Special Agent Lance R. Wega asked a federal court in Sacramento, Calif., for a warrant to collect a package Airman al-Halabi sent from Guantanamo Bay to his home address at Travis Air Force Base. Federal Magistrate Gregory G. Hollows granted the search warrant on Sept. 5.

An Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Rob Koon, said Thursday he had no information on why Airman al-Halabi was allowed to work at Guantanamo Bay when he had been under suspicion before arriving at the prison camp.

Airman Al-Halabi says he is innocent. One of his attorneys, Air Force Maj. James Key III, said the airman is a naturalized U.S. citizen and a patriotic American.

The most serious of the 32 charges against Airman al-Halabi carries a possible death sentence. Brig. Gen. Bradley S. Baker, the commander of Airman al-Halabi’s unit, has not decided whether he will be tried by court-martial or, if he is convicted, face a possible death sentence.

While at Guantanamo Bay, Airman al-Halabi “made statements criticizing United States policy with regard to the detainees and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East,” Mr. Wega wrote. The agent wrote that Airman al-Halabi also “expressed sympathy for, and has had unauthorized contact with, the detainees.”

The charges against Airman al-Halabi include an accusation that he lied to investigators when he denied making anti-American statements. He also is charged with violating military orders by having improper contact with the prisoners.

Military investigators made a secret search of Airman al-Halabi’s quarters at Guantanamo Bay on July 19, five days before he was arrested in Florida Mr. Wega said.

The investigators found several pieces of mail belonging to al Qaeda and Taliban suspects at the prison camp, Mr. Wega stated. They took pictures of the letters and made a copy of the hard drive of Airman al-Halabi’s computer.

On that hard drive, agents found about 186 classified Defense Department documents according to Mr. Wega.

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