The relationship took off. "If the insurgents were coming, he would give us time they were coming, what they look like and what time," the translator said.
Such information was invaluable and the sheikh's cooperation was a closely guarded secret. "My supervisors were saying nobody should know this guy is giving us information, another marine unit," the translator said.
But the sheikh's new contracts generated animosity, a feeling that would only grow as the sheikh's relationship with the United States grew. The translator said that many of the Iraqi military officials in the area "started spreading rumors about this guy" saying that he "might be working for al Qaeda and the insurgents."
And sometimes they would harass the sheikh, confiscating his weapons. The sheikh would call the translator and his unit would either get the weapons back or give him new ones, the translator said.
Once, he said, the Iraqi general in charge of the border patrol told him to stop taking the sheikh's calls or he would get him in trouble.
The translator chalked it up to jealousy over the contracts and his supervisors told him not to worry about it.
So he had little concern when, just before he was scheduled to leave on Nov. 5, an agent from the Navy Criminal Investigative Services asked to interview him. She wanted to know about the conditions along the border and he answered willingly, he said.
He then headed to the Al Asad airbase, where he planned to catch a flight to Kuwait. But before he could do that – and before he could talk to a contracting official he saw at the base – he was taken to an interrogation room, according to the complaint. The questioning lasted four hours and included three NCIS agents – including the woman who'd interviewed him before – as well as another official, whom he thought was with the CIA.
The translator asked for someone from his company to sit in, but, the complaint states, he was told no. He then asked for an attorney. The answer was the same. He tried one more time: what about a member of his HET team. Again, the answer was no.
Aware of the sensitivity of his work, he refused to respond without someone else present. But the questions continued. They asked if he knew the sheikh. He says they accused him of giving weapons to the Iraqis. And he claims they threatened him with jail.
The translator kept silent. Of course he knew the sheikh. And technically he had given him weapons, but how could he explain that it was for his protection, that the unit "couldn't leave this guy alone in that dangerous area," the translator said.
He had another problem. Because he was working with members of an intelligence unit, he said he didn't know the real names of soldiers he worked with. Asking for Mr. Joe wasn't exactly a detailed identification.
After several hours he was handcuffed, blindfolded and the necklace he was wearing was ripped from his neck. One agent told him if he tried to escape they would shoot him, according to the complaint.
Then, he was put on a helicopter for an approximately 30-minute flight to another military base, according the complaint. There, he claims, he was strip-searched, given an orange jump suit and put in isolation for three days in "small, cold cell." He says he slept on a thin mattress laid on the concrete floor and was given only a bottle of water and a few biscuits to eat.