- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

BAGHDAD — 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 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 this year — also stemmed from his most recent position in a provincial transition team with headquarters at Camp Victory, the main U.S. military base near the detention center, military spokesman Lt. Col. James Hutton said.

Col. 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.

“These are troublesome allegations but again they are just allegations at the moment,” U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.

Col. Steele was at Camp Cropper from October 2005 through the end of October last year, after which he transferred to Camp Victory with the 89th Military Police Brigade, the position he held when he was detained, Col. Hutton said.

Among the charges, Col. 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 Col. Hutton.

He purportedly “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.

Col. 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.

Violence across Iraq killed at least 72 persons yesterday, including the bullet-riddled bodies of 27 men dumped in the capital, and bombers struck an Iraqi army post northeast of Baghdad and civilian targets in the city.

The deadliest attack occurred about 9 a.m. when a suicide car bomber killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Khalis, a longtime flash-point city about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad. Ten other soldiers and five civilians were wounded, police said.

In the capital, a car bomb exploded near Baghdad University, killing eight civilians and wounding 19, including some students, police said.

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