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Witness testifies U.S. soldier knew he was aiding enemy by allowing to make call

A soldier who is charged with aiding the enemy for allowing high-value Iraqi detainees to make unmonitored calls to people outside the prison, knew he was making a mistake, a military witness said Tuesday

The testimony provided the first glimpse into the most serious charge facing Lt. Col. William H. Steele, who also is accused of fraternizing with the detainee's daughter, illegally storing classified material, maintaining an inappropriate relationship with an interpreter, possessing pornographic videos, failing to obey an order and dereliction of duty regarding government funds.

The charge of aiding the enemy, which is a capital offense, is tied to Steele's time as a military police commander at Camp Cropper - a detention center near Baghdad's airport that held Saddam Hussein before he was hanged.

"He knew the monitoring program was in place, but he still let detainees use his cell phone" in privacy, U.S. Special Agent John C. Nocella said.

Nocella quoted the defendant as saying "what I have done is wrong" and "I will lose my commission for this" during a conversation they had on Feb. 24.

Nocella said he had agreed with that conclusion.

Nocella, who said he had not tape recorded his private conversations with Steele, testified the defendant empathized with high-value detainees.

"Did he tell you he was a humanitarian and he felt compelled to make their lives better?" asked prosecutor Capt. Michael Rizzotti.

"Yes, he did," Nocella replied.

The testimony came on the second and final day of a military hearing at Camp Victory on the western outskirts of Baghdad to determine whether evidence against Steele, a 51-year-old Army reservist from Virginia, warrants a trial.

The alleged incidents took place from October 2005 to February 2007, starting when Steele was commander of the 451st Military Police Detachment at Camp Cropper and in his later post as a senior patrol officer for the provincial transition team headquarters at nearby Camp Victory with the 89th Military Police Brigade.

The proceeding adjourned after hearing from eight witnesses, most testifying by telephone from the United States.

Col. Elizabeth Fleming, the investigating officer presiding over the hearing, will have the option of recommending that no action be taken, that some or all of the preliminary charges be dismissed, or that a court-martial be held, among others.

Her report will be forwarded to Steele's commanding officer, Col. Michael Galloucis, commander of the 89th Military Police Brigade, who will then forward his own recommendations to the No. 2 American commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno for a final decision.

She did not give any idea about when she would issue her recommendations.