Military B.S. Alert

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Remember James Yee, the poor Guantanamo chaplain who was charged with a laundry list of offenses, all of which were later dropped?

There’s a new James Yee. His name is Lt. Col. William H. Steele. He’s been accused of aiding the enemy, a charge that can bring a death sentence. The reason? He allowed detainees at Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport to use an unsecured cell phone. All the charges against him sound suspiciously floppy:

He was also accused of illegally storing and marking classified information, disobeying orders relating to his possession of pornography, dereliction of duty regarding government funds and conduct unbecoming of an officer for fraternizing with the daughter of a detainee since 2005 and for maintaining “an inappropriate relationship” with an interpreter in 2005 and 2006.

The military is mum on the charges, but outside analysts who have seen them say the fraternizing charge probably did not involve a sexual relationship.

Now get this: The military accused Yee of disturbingly similar violations, including aiding the enemy, failure to obey a general order, adultery and storing pornography on government computers.

So the real question isn’t whether detainees were using Steele’s cell phone to harm Americans (much less whether Steele knew it, which would have to be proven for the charge to stick), it’s what Steele did to piss off the Pentagon. Or is this simply an attempt to distract the public from the security surge’s failure? (Now even Gen. Petraeus is saying things will get worse before they get better.) Stay tuned.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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