Officer Testifies Against U.S. Military Jailer In Iraq

Officer Testifies Against U.S. Military Jailer In Iraq
May 1st, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Officer Testifies Against U.S. Military Jailer In Iraq

Officer Testifies Against U.S. Military Jailer In Iraq
New York Times
May 1, 2007
Pg. 10

By Damien Cave
BAGHDAD, April 30 — A senior commander in the American military’s main detention center here testified Monday at a military hearing that his predecessor, Lt. Col. William H. Steele, gave computer programs and other gifts to the daughter of a high-value detainee.
The commander, Lt. Col. Quentin Crank, whose military police unit took over for Colonel Steele’s at Camp Cropper in October 2006, said the gifts, which would be a breach of military law and Iraqi cultural norms, were given after Colonel Steele had moved to another assignment in Iraq. The detainee was said to be outraged by the personal contact with his daughter, telling American officials that Colonel Steele was trying to supplant his role as father.
A computer forensics expert testified that an IBM laptop recovered during the investigation contained classified material, 37 adult pornographic videos, 122 adult pornographic images and an e-mail message to an undisclosed person that “appeared to be adulterous in nature.” A second laptop, a Dell, contained the text of a secret document, the investigator said.
The testimony once again cast the ethical conduct of American jailers in Iraq in an unfavorable light, even as the military sets in motion plans to expand its detention facilities to make room for the rapidly growing ranks of prisoners captured during the new security plan.
The hearing is to weigh the evidence against Colonel Steele, 51, a married reservist from Prince George, Va., who has had prior scrapes with the law. In November 1993, he was charged with aggravated child abuse and resisting an officer with violence, both felonies, according to Hernando County, Fla., court records.
A state prosecutor accused Colonel Steele, a former Hernando County sheriff’s deputy, of physically and verbally abusing his 11-year-old stepson for homework errors, and of padlocking the family’s refrigerator and food cabinets to prevent the boy from eating, according to court records. The charges were dropped when Colonel Steele, an Army reservist at the time, agreed to give up custody of the boy.
Colonel’s Steele’s wife, Judith, did not return phone calls and e-mail messages seeking comment.
Colonel Steele has been accused of nine violations of military law, including “aiding the enemy,” related to the allegation that he passed an unmonitored cellphone to detainees. He is also accused of mishandling classified information and government funds, fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee, engaging in an inappropriate relationship with an interpreter and possessing pornography.
The allegations cover Oct. 1, 2005, to Feb. 22, 2007. The officer overseeing the hearing, Col. Elizabeth Fleming, will determine if the evidence warrants a court-martial, which would have to be approved by Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of daily operations in Iraq.
The most serious of the nine allegations, “aiding the enemy,” carries a potential death sentence, though a military liaison with the court said that life in prison would be more likely if Colonel Steele were found guilty.
Some details of the accusations were handled in closed sessions because they involved classified evidence. Many of the allegations were raised in vague terms in the public sessions. The “aiding the enemy” accusation was raised obliquely, when Colonel Crank explained how every detainee phone call is supposed to be listened to and logged by an interpreter and an American soldier.
Colonel Steele’s supposed mishandling of classified information was also described opaquely, with Colonel Crank saying that he saw Colonel Steele downloading more than 20 CD-ROMs from a third government laptop when they worked together during the transfer of command. It was not established that the information he downloaded was classified.
But mainly, on the first day of what is expected to be at least a two-day hearing, the government’s lawyers and Colonel Steele’s military-appointed defenders focused on the accusations that the former commander mishandled government finances and information and that he had improper relations with women he encountered as the prison’s commanding officer.
Colonel Crank, commander of the 494th Military Police unit, said Colonel Steele returned to the prison to give several items to the high-value detainee’s daughter during visiting hours. The current operations officer for Colonel Crank’s unit testified that Colonel Steele called ahead to say that he would be coming to deliver “college paperwork” to the woman.
Colonel Crank said that when Colonel Steele arrived, he gave the woman a box with computer programs and papers, along with blueprints, “in a room away from everybody else.” He added that a photo had been taken. It was unclear how, and the picture was not shown to reporters.

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