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WAR: Classified Guantanamo Data CD Accidentally Returned to Convicted Translator

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posted on Mar, 27 2005 @ 11:22 AM
Some people may remember a case back in 2003 where a Gitmo Translator was accused, and eventually convicted of smuggling information to Egypt from a military computer located at Guantanamo Bay. The translator, named Ahmed Mehalba, was convicted of mishandling of classified information and two counts of providing false information. After the trial ended, the unlabeled CD containing classified information was accidentally returned to Mehalba along with many other CDs seized by customs agents. The former translator notified the FBI of their own mistake, and returned the data to them immediately. The FBI explained their actions by saying they weren't allowed to alter the CD to write 'Classified' on it because the disc was evidence in the trial, and so when it came time to return the defendant's personal possessions nobody was able to tell the difference between the classified disc and the unmarked personal CDs the man had in his possesion when he was arrested.
Mehalba had just arrived in Boston from his native Egypt in September 2003, when customs inspectors found the discs during a routine search. He was arrested after one of the discs was found to contain information that had been downloaded from classified files available on a military computer at Guantanamo Bay, where the Defense Department had hired him to work as an Arabic translator.

Mehalba, a U.S. citizen, claimed he merely had been trying to do a good job by working on the material at home when he flew to Egypt that summer during an emergency leave to visit his family.

He never marked the disc ``classified,'' however, and, because it was evidence, authorities left it unaltered in a safe until the FBI returned it to him last week with the other discs after his release.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

This was obviously a serious security breach on the part of the FBI. If the material was indeed classified, should the agents responsible be charged with the same crime as the defendant, mishandling classified information? Should there be an investigation into how such 'sensitive' evidence is handled in general, since it seems security is anything but tight, considering the number of leaks in recent memory.

Is it possible this was a calculated move to determine whether or not the defendant was a spy? If they switched the disc with a look alike, perhaps with fake, look-alike data, they would know Mehalba wasn't legit if he failed to return the data upon finding the mistake.

Still, this is a disturbing addendum to a story that was blowing up all over the news wires when it initially broke. The circus is in full swing, but who's running the show? This new information is not widely available in the mainstream media at this point, or at the very least, it's being eclipsed by the Shiavo case.

[edit on 27-3-2005 by WyrdeOne]

posted on Mar, 27 2005 @ 01:34 PM

Is it possible this was a calculated move to determine whether or not the defendant was a spy? If they switched the disc with a look alike, perhaps with fake, look-alike data, they would know Mehalba wasn't legit if he failed to return the data upon finding the mistake.

Could be true that perhaps they did in purpose to see how he would react.

Now it could also be an Innocent mistake, after all, but one think is for sure, files that are "classify" should not be around to be mistaken and given away.

posted on Mar, 27 2005 @ 05:00 PM
Well, the files weren't just lying around at Gitmo, he searched for them on his computer terminal, ripped a disc with the data, and smuggled it back to Egypt. When caught out later, he said he just wanted to take his work home with him on leave.

He wasn't convicted of espionage, I should clarify, just the charges previously stated in the original post.

Now, where this new story picks up is long after the trial, they gave him back all of the CDs confiscated from him by customs agents upon his return from Egypt. The problem is, they gave him back ALL the CDs, including the one with classified data.

He probably could have avoided all this hassle if he had just used a sharpie marker to label the disc classified, and hadn't lied about it when asked.

I also have a question, why was he searched and detained for possession of CDs? Is that illegal on airplanes too now? Or was customs alerted by other Gitmo employees to be on the lookout for this guy upon his return? Perhaps they found out the information was missing during his leave? I find that hard to believe, since he likely copied, rather than moved the files, but perhaps they routinely check use logs to verify what people are doing.

posted on Mar, 27 2005 @ 06:20 PM
I think it looks more like a misunderstanding and lack of security. You make a good point I wonder if is part of security now in airports to check for cds.

And what would happen if he decided not to come back? And anyway you can always make copies of cds so if he was giving information away you don’t have to give away the original. Right?

posted on Mar, 27 2005 @ 11:39 PM
Yeah, there's really no way of knowing if he made copies or not. I imagine he did, but they still couldn't concivt him. Who knows what's going on with this story. I notice nobody wants to touch it with a ten foot pole.


Wonder why that is?

I noticed later on today, after I posted this, some other reputable news outlets started carrying the story. It's good to know it isn't be swept under the carpet. Of course, in this day and age, what with information everywhere, it gets harder and harder to keep these little slip-ups secret.

posted on Mar, 30 2005 @ 04:25 AM
I am trying to verify this, but I was also under the impression that all computers holding classified documents were devoid of removable disk drives, cd burners, and email capabilities, to make it impossible to copy/transfer the data they contained.

Is it possible his actions were condoned by his CO, and then when the excrement hit the fan, his CO backed out and layed the blame at this guys feet?

I know that in most research laboratories, corporate accounting offices, and military installations, measures are in place to prevent the removal of data. I don't know why that wasn't the case in this instance.

Also, there's been no word on what the data might have been? Was it perhaps something relatively mundane, hence the light sentence?

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