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Security charge for Guantanamo intelligence officer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An Army intelligence officer was charged yesterday with violating security at the US detention camp for terrorist suspects, the fourth person charged with breaches at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Two Arabic translators and a Muslim chaplain face charges ranging from espionage to adultery at the base, where interrogators are questioning some 660 detainees from 44 countries.

Army Colonel Jack Farr was charged yesterday with "wrongfully transporting classified material without the proper security container on or around Oct. 11," and lying to investigators, said a statement from the US Southern Command.

Lieutenant Commander Chris Loundermon, a spokesman at the command's headquarters in Miami, said he did not know whether Farr had direct contact with detainees. He declined to describe the classified material.

Farr is a reservist who had been on temporary duty at Guantanamo Bay for six months and left to return home.

"He was departing when the investigation revealed that he had some security violations," Loundermon said. "He voluntarily came back."

Farr is not under arrest and has not been suspended, Loundermon said: "He didn't present a flight risk and he was not likely to engage in any further serious misconduct."

Farr's charges have been forwarded to the base commander, who could dismiss them, refer them to a court-martial, or direct a pretrial investigation.

Two Army lawyers appointed to represent Farr could not be reached yesterday.

Security has been tightened at Guantanamo Bay since the first arrests were announced in September and military investigators arrived.

New measures include firewalls on computer systems, increased bag screening, and inspection of workers' electronic equipment before they leave the remote base on Cuba's eastern tip, which can only be reached by aircraft chartered by the military.

The first person arrested was Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi, an Air Force translator detained July 23 at Logan Airport when he returned from a visit to Egypt.

A naturalized US citizen, Halabi worked as an Arabic translator and is accused of collecting secrets about the base and messages from prisoners with plans to transmit them to an unspecified enemy in his native Syria.

He has pleaded not guilty to 32 charges, including espionage and aiding the enemy. The most serious charges carry a possible death sentence.

Officials did not announce Halabi's arrest until news broke of the Sept. 10 arrest of Army Captain James "Yousef" Yee, the Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay who is a Chinese-American native of Springfield, N.J.

Federal agents said Yee, who converted to Islam after graduating from West Point, was found carrying sketches of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where he counseled prisoners and advised the detention mission commander about Islam.

Rumors grew that Yee, 35, would be charged with espionage, but instead he was charged Oct. 10 with disobeying a general order by taking classified material home and transporting it without proper security.

On Tuesday, the military released him but also pressed additional charges of storing pornography on a government computer and committing adultery, an offense under the military code.

Yee, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a preliminary hearing tomorrow at Fort Benning, Ga.

The third arrest was made Sept. 29, also at Logan. Customs agents found 132 compact discs, including one with hundreds of classified documents labeled "SECRET," in the luggage of Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, who was a civilian interpreter at the base.

Mehalba, 31, was arrested as he arrived from his native Egypt. The government on Nov. 12 charged him with gathering defense information and lying to federal investigators.

Mehalba says he is innocent.

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