Third Suspect Eyed in Guantanamo Bay Case
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2003 A third person possibly tied to espionage at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- this one a civilian contractor who worked as a translator -- was charged today with making false, fictitious or fraudulent statements regarding computer disks he carried during a flight from Egypt.
Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, a naturalized citizen of Egyptian decent, was arrested Sept. 29 after arriving at Boston's Logan Airport Monday afternoon aboard a flight from Cairo that stopped at Milan, Italy, on the way to Boston from Egypt.
According to Brian Doyle, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials conducting a routine examination at the airport noted a military identification card identifying Mehalba as a contract linguist at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay. While searching Mehalba's baggage, the inspectors found 132 CD-ROMs, at least one of which contained information that appeared to be classified, Doyle said.
The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force responded and arrested Mehalba. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts authorized the arrest.
The complaint filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts reports that Mehalba had a close relationship with a former student at the Army Counter-Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., who was discharged in September 2001 under less than honorable conditions.
The complaint cites a Dec. 21, 2001, FBI report about former U.S. Army Spc. Deborah Gephardt, who was arrested May 20, 2001, for vehicle theft. A search of her quarters revealed a stolen laptop computer and classified counter- intelligence training material. After Gephardt's arrest, the FBI report says Mehalba made several unsuccessful attempts to gain information about her arrest, without success. The FBI report also revealed that Mehalba told Gephardt his uncle was an intelligence officer for the Egyptian army.
U.S. Southern Command officials said Mehalba had been employed at the facility as a contractor for The Titan Corporation, but did not yet have specifics about his employment at Guantanamo Bay.
The Titan Corporation is a U.S. contractor in San Diego that supports homeland security and counterterrorism.
Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad I. Al Halabi, who worked at the facility as a translator, was arrested July 23. He is assigned to the 60th Logistical Readiness Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and has been charged with espionage.
Army Capt. Yousef Yee, a Muslim chaplain at the detention facility, was arrested at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on Sept. 10. No formal charges have been filed against Yee, who is being held pending charges at the Naval Consolidated Brig at Charleston, S.C. The Uniform Code of Military Justice gives the military up to 120 days to formally charge an accused service member and begin a trial.
Unlike Mehalba, who as a civilian is subject to civilian laws, both Halabi and Yee are service members subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.