U.S. Airman Charged With Spying

Guard tower at Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba, Prisoner, Hand Cuffs, Generic
CBS/AP
An Air Force translator at the U.S. prison camp for suspected terrorists has been charged with espionage and aiding the enemy, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi is being held at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, facing 32 criminal charges, spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said.

Al-Halabi worked as an Arabic language translator at the prison camp for al Qaeda and Taliban suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Shavers said. The Air Force enlisted man knew the Muslim chaplain at the prison arrested earlier this month, but it's unclear if the two arrests are linked, Shavers said.

The translator was arrested on July 23, more than six weeks before the chaplain. Both men were apprehended in Jacksonville, Fla., after getting off flights from the base in Cuba, Shavers said.

Al-Halabi is charged with nine counts related to espionage, three counts of aiding the enemy, 11 counts of disobeying a lawful order, and nine counts of making a false official statement.

Al-Halabi was based at Travis Air Force Base in California and assigned to a logistics unit there, Shavers said.

Pentagon officials said an investigation into possible security breaches at Guantanamo Bay continues.

About 660 suspected al Qaeda or Taliban members are imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base there. American officials are interrogating them for information on the terrorist network.

The military has classified many details about the prison camp and the detainees and has not identified any of the men being held there. Military officials have said the fight against terrorism could be hampered if terrorist groups got such information.

The Muslim military chaplain who ministered to the inmates at the camp, Army Capt. Yousef Yee, was arrested Sept. 10 in Jacksonville, Fla., after getting off a flight from Guantanamo Bay.

Officials say Yee, a Chinese-American Christian who converted to Islam, has acknowledged that he passed messages back and forth between the prisoners, a violation of the maximum-security prison's rules. They also seized the captain's laptop computer and modem that he used to check Islamic websites, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.

Yee, 35, is being held at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. A military magistrate ruled on Sept. 15 there was enough evidence to hold Yee for up to two months while the Army Criminal Investigative Division investigates.

Yee was one of the public faces of the Bush administration's effort to reassure Muslims that the war on terrorism was not targeting them.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Yee was mentioned in a U.S. Embassy news release after the Sept. 11 attacks. He was also the subject of a Voice of America profile.

Before his arrest, Yee was interviewed by 60 Minutes II Correspondent Vicki Mabrey for a report on Guantanamo prisoners that will air 8 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday.

"In general, I would say the American public has a lot to learn about Islam," he told Mabrey.