Top U.S. Officer Allegedly Aided Enemy in Iraq

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In an unusual case that could conceivably lead to the death penalty upon conviction, a former top U.S. military commander at a maximum security prison near Baghdad reportedly has been charged with aiding the enemy in Iraq.

According to a statement released today by the military, Lt. Col. William H. Steele, among other alleged misconduct, gave aid to the enemy in 2005 and 2006 by “by providing an unmonitored cellular phone to detainees” at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad International Airport, the New York Times reports.

Steele, who is now in Kuwait awaiting a military hearing to determine whether a court martial should proceed, is also facing eight other counts. They relate to alleged misconduct, in violation of military rules, concerning storage of classified information, possession of pornography, government funds, and his relations with an interpreter and the daughter of a detainee.

The charges against Steele, which might seem relatively minor to civilians, are magnified by his supervisory position at a maximum security prison, in wartime, in a Muslim country where it is considered improper for women to speak to men outside their immediate family, according to Walt Huffman. A former Army judge advocate general, he is dean of Texas Tech University’s law school.

At the same time, however, conviction on a charge of aiding the enemy requires proof of the defendant’s intent to endanger American troops or missions, which is difficult to show, said Huffman, who has no knowledge of Steele’s particular case. “That’s a difficult charge to prove,” he said.

For more details, see this Reuters article.

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