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DOD Sends Team to Investigate Suspected Security Lapses at Guantanamo - 2003-10-01

The Defense Department's Miami-based Southern Command is sending an investigative team to its prison facility at Guantanamo Bay to look into suspected security lapses. The decision was made a day after a third suspect was arrested for involvement with Taleban and al-Qaida detainees at the base.

Officials at the Miami headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command say a team of investigators is being sent to the Guantanamo facility to look into security procedures at the base. Three men have been detained during the past week, in various locations, following allegations they were involved in illegal activities at the base, where about 660 suspected Taleban fighters and al-Qaida terrorists are being held.

Steve Lucas, a spokesman for Southcom in Miami, says the investigators will work closely with members of the Joint Task Force, which runs Guantanamo, to review a broad range of security procedures at the base.

"The Southern Command assessment team will be working jointly with the JTF [Joint Task Force] staff this week to conduct an internal assessment into operational security procedures and measures in place at Guantanamo," he said. "They will immediately recommend reinforcement or correction of established procedures, or the establishment of new procedures, depending on what their assessment indicates."

Three men; Muslim Army Chaplain James Yee, Air Force Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, and civilian translator Ahmed Mehalba have been detained by U.S. authorities on suspicion of possible espionage at the base.

Captain Yee is suspected of espionage activities, but so far no formal charges have filed against him. Airman al-Halabi, who worked as a translator at the base, faces a variety of charges that include aiding the enemy and espionage.

Ahmed Mehalba, a naturalized citizen of Egyptian descent who also worked as a translator, was arrested this week at Boston airport after customs officials found a compact disc in his luggage that reportedly contained classified information.

Defense Department officials say those arrested had been under suspicion for some time for illegal activities at Camp Delta, the high security facility at Guantanamo where the detainees are held. There are about 70 translators working at the base, and while Defense Department officials say there is no evidence of a wider conspiracy at the base, they are investigating the activities of others employed in sensitive positions.