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Military Investigates Guantanamo Bay Cases

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2003 – The Defense Department is continuing its investigations into two cases associated with the confinement facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in which an Air Force translator is charged with espionage and an Army chaplain is being held pending charges.

Raul Duany, spokesman for U.S. Southern Command, said the military has no information at this time that the two cases are connected.

Both cases involve service members assigned to Camp Delta on U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, where the United States is detaining suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members.

Senior Airman Ahmad I. Al Halabi, assigned to the 60th Logistical Readiness Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., is being held in pre-trial confinement at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., following his Article 32 hearing last week. An Article 32 hearing is the military's equivalent of a preliminary hearing and grand jury process in the civilian justice system.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Jean Schaefer said Al Halabi, who was apprehended July 23 at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Fla., is charged with numerous Uniform Code of Military Justice violations. These include three charges of aiding the enemy, four charges of espionage, and nine charges of making false statements. Four other charges allege violations of the U.S. Code relating to espionage and to executing a fraudulent credit scheme.

The six-page charge sheet against Al Halabi, a native of Syria, accuses him of activities at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on the day of his arrest conducted "with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of Syria." These include delivering three e-mail messages containing classified information about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and attempting to deliver two handwritten notes and more than 180 electronic versions of written notes from detainees to a third party to be carried to Syria.

The writings "directly concerned intelligence gathering and planning for the United States' war against terrorism," the charge sheet against Al Halabi notes.

He also is accused of e-mailing detainees' names, countries of origins, addresses, and corresponding internment serial numbers "to unauthorized person or persons whom he, the accused, knew to be the enemy" and of failing to report to military authorities that he had made contact with the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Other charges against Al Halabi accuse him of wrongfully taking photographs of facilities in and around Camp Delta, of improperly handling classified information, of unauthorized communication with detainees and of failing to report other service members' unauthorized communications or attempted communications with detainees.

Schaefer said these activities occurred between December 2002 and July 2003, when Al Halabi was on temporary duty at Guantanamo Bay serving as a translator. He was apprehended at Jacksonville Naval Air Station when he returned to the states on personal leave. Al Halabi was transported to Travis Air Force Base the following day.

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. Baker, commander of the 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis and the special court-martial convening authority for the case, is awaiting the report of investigation following Al Halabi's Article 32 hearing, which was held at Vandenberg Air Force Base from Sept. 15 to 18.

Based on the report's recommendations, Schaefer said Baker could choose to proceed with a court-martial or take other actions, as appropriate.

Meanwhile, a military magistrate ruled Sept. 15 that the military has sufficient reason to hold Army Capt. Yousef Yee while it continues its investigation into his case.

Duany said Yee was arrested at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on Sept. 10 and is being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig at Charleston, S.C.

No formal charges have been filed against Yee. Duany explained that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice gives the military up to 120 days to formally charge an accused service member and begin a trial.

Yee, a 1990 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, served as an artillery officer with a Patriot missile battery in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War. U.S. Southern Command spokesman Steve Lucas said Yee left active duty and traveled to Syria to study Islam, changing his first name from Joseph to Yousef. Yee returned to active duty and completed the Army Chaplain's Officer Basic Course in April 2001.

Following an assignment with the 29th Signal Battalion at Fort Lewis, Wash., Yee spent 10 months with Joint Task Force Guantanamo as a Muslim chaplain. In that capacity, Lucas said Yee served as an Islamic advisor to the Joint Task force commander and counseled Muslim detainees.

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