The Pentagon has launched an inquiry into an alleged Syrian-linked spy ring among Muslim Americans working at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to Reuters news agency.
Senior Airman Ahmad Al-Halabi, 24, from Detroit is the latest person arrested in the investigation.
The Syrian-born Al-Halabi worked as an Arabic translator and is accused of sending classified information back to Syria, such as details of military flights to and from the camp, the names, serial numbers and cell phone numbers of detainees, a map of the base and other military documents, reports the British newspaper, the Telegraph.
Al-Halabi is officially charged with 32 criminal counts, including espionage and aiding the enemy, both of which are punishable by death.
The United States Military is also holding Army Islamic Chaplain James Yee, who also worked at Guantanamo, on suspicion of espionage.
Yee, 35, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He converted to Islam while in the army when he served in Saudi Arabia in the 1991 Gulf War, Reuters reported.
Following the war he spent four years studying Islam is the Syrian capital, Damascus, then came back to the U.S. Army as a Muslim cleric.
"We don't presume that the two we know about is all there is to it," said General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as quoted by the British Broadcasting Company.
In Damascus, Syria's information minister, Ahmed al Hassan, told the Arab News, "How could Syria have a spy in Guantanamo? Any allegations that Al-Halabi has any kind of connection with Syria are baseless and illogical."
The arrests have caused some concern, especially in the intelligence and political communities.
A CIA official told Newsday that there might have been "inappropriate passing of classified information to the wrong people."
Michael Waller, a researcher for the pro-military Washington based Center for Security Policy, said that the Pentagon should be more careful and that its own security policies need to be reassessed.
"Here you have a guy who was trained in Syria, which is on the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism and he comes over and is commissioned as an officer," Waller said of Yee in Wednesday's Arab News.
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic relations, said, "Our fear is that the words Islam and Muslim may become used as automatic suspects by those who would like to exploit the incident to attack Islam and Muslims. And there are political pundits who are trying to achieve this."
Nihad also said he didn't want this to turn into a campaign against Muslims in the military.
"We don't want to undermine their safety or even question their love and commitment to the country," Nihad told the Arab News.
Pentagon officials say that while Yee and Al-Halabi probably knew each other, they have no evidence that the two were collaborating.
The accusations could put a strain on already tense Syrian-American relations.
A commentary in the Christian Science Monitor warns people not to rush to judgment as to what the arrests mean.
It also said no one should "tar the entire American Muslim community as being sympathetic to terrorism."
- Compiled by Sarah Stiles
Pentagon investigates spy ring
Published: Fri Sep 26, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:24 p.m.