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Spy Hunter Faces Sex Charges

US Army soldier stands guards at outer perimeter of holding area for detainees in orange jumpsuits during in-processing, Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba
AP
A key investigator in an espionage case against a Syrian-born former interpreter at the Guantanamo Bay prison now faces criminal charges himself, including rape, sodomy and fondling girls, the Air Force said.

Tech. Sgt. Marc Palmosina, who assisted the lead investigator in the case of Ahmad Al Halabi, was charged May 26 with the crimes near Travis Air Force Base in California and near Kadena Air Base in Japan as long ago as 1998. It is unclear how many victims were involved, said Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Cassidy.

Palmosina also is accused of mishandling classified documents in 2001 and 2003. Cassidy said the investigation into these crimes is ongoing, and that the charges have nothing to do with the case against Al Halabi, a senior airman.

The charges against Palmosina were revealed Tuesday outside court by Al Halabi's civilian defense lawyer, Donald Rehkopf Jr., who has accused the Air Force of sloppy investigative work that resulted in unwarranted charges against his client. The Air Force later released a document outlining the charges against Palmosina.

Palmosina's military lawyer was away on an assignment Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

In May, Rehkopf filed a motion asking for the dismissal of all charges against Al Halabi, who faces 17 criminal counts including attempted espionage, lying and misconduct. If convicted of the most serious charges, he could be sentenced to life in a military prison. The military judge will likely rule Wednesday.

"The case was poorly investigated from the beginning," Rehkopf said Tuesday during a court break. "The more we dig into it, the less evidence there is."

Palmosina helped the lead investigator in the case, Special Agent Lance Wega. Rehkopf alleges that Wega and agents with the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations drank beer, failed to wear gloves and rifled through the contents of a box seized as evidence from Al Halabi, then repacked the box to "pretend and mislead" that they were following protocol.

Special Agent Christopher Birch, who also was in the room when the box was opened, was called by prosecutors to testify Tuesday. He portrayed the incident as an innocent mistake that was quickly remedied.

Al Halabi, 25, was a supply clerk at the Travis base until the military's demand for Arabic speakers increased sharply and he was sent to Guantanamo, where suspected terrorists are being held.

CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer reports al-Halabi, who was born in Syria, was headed for his homeland to get married when he was arrested in July, the first of four Guantanamo Bay workers arrested in an investigation into alleged security breakdowns.

One of the others charges, Capt. James Yee, recently had overturned a reprimand for adultery and possessing pornography.

Yee, a Muslim Army chaplain, had been investigated for espionage, then prosecuted on lesser charges, which were thrown out. He was reprimanded for misconduct, but then a general tossed the reprimand.

Information was not available Wednesday on the status of two others charged in Guantanamo cases: a civilian interpreter, Ahmad F. Mehalba, and Col. Jack Farr, an Army Reserve intelligence officer.