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Lawmakers Say New Abuse Photos Even Worse

Lawmakers Say New Abuse Photos Even Worse

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops went beyond the photos seen by most Americans, shaken lawmakers said Wednesday after viewing fresh pictures and video that they said depicted forced sex, brutality and dogs snarling at cowed prisoners.

Some members of Congress said they feared that making the images public would inflame international outrage and endanger Americans still in Iraq. The private screening of more than 1,600 photos in a top-secret room of the U.S. Capitol came one day after Islamic militants announced they had beheaded an American in Iraq to avenge abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.

"I don't know how the hell these people got into our army," said Colorado Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell after viewing what he called a fraction of the images.

"I saw cruel, sadistic torture," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who said some of the images were of male prisoners masturbating. She said she saw a man hitting himself against a wall as though to knock himself unconscious.

Others said they saw images of corpses, military dogs snarling at cowering prisoners, women commanded to expose their breasts and sex acts, including forced homosexual sex.

"There were people who were forced to have sex with each other," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said, "There were some pictures where it looked like a prisoner was sodomizing himself" with an object. He said blood was visible in the photograph.

Not everyone reacted the same way to the additional photos.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said he thought "some people are overreacting."

"The people who are against the war are using this to their political ends," he said.

The private screening marked the latest turn in a scandal that has prompted President Bush to apologize to the victims and Democrats to demand the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Many of the photos appeared to include the same small group of soldiers who were in pictures that had already been made public. And pictures of abuse were mixed in with travelogue-type photos.

Some questionable photos appeared to have nothing to do with prisoners, including several that lawmakers believed were of sex between male and female U.S. troops.

The pictures on three discs were shown to lawmakers in the form of a slide show. Many said the images were difficult to decipher.

Shortly before the viewing began, Rumsfeld defended military interrogation techniques in Iraq, rejecting contentions that they violate international rules and may endanger Americans taken prisoner.

Rumsfeld told a Senate committee that Pentagon lawyers had approved methods such as sleep deprivation and dietary changes as well as rules permitting prisoners to be made to assume stressful positions.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also noted that the rules require prisoners to be treated humanely at all times.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. said some of the approved techniques "go far beyond the Geneva Convention," a reference to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

The Defense Department is conducting multiple investigations into prisoner abuse.

Lawmakers were given three hours to see the photos and videos in top-secret rooms at the Capitol. The photos remained in the custody of the Pentagon as the administration tried to decide whether to release them to the public.

In the past two weeks a handful of photos have been made public along with an Army report that found numerous "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison complex near Baghdad.

In Wednesday's viewing, briefers from the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Division conducted the sessions sought by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has had two hearings into the abuses that have caused an international firestorm.

Committee Chairman John Warner urged before the photos were shown Wednesday that lawmakers use caution in describing them publicly.

"I think we've got to be extremely cautious ... not incite in any way further anger against our forces or others working in the cause of freedom," the Virginia Republican said on the Senate floor.

He said he didn't think they should be released to the public until trials of the troops begin to protect the legal process and avoid "inspiring the enemy to inflict further damage."

Myers said the military has taken steps to correct the problems, including replacing the military police unit that took some of the photos.

"This was a unit that had issues with just adhering to the Army's standards," Myers said. "They didn't have standardized uniforms. They were allowed to carry guns in their civilian clothes when they were off duty. They had things written on their cap. They didn't particularly want to salute."

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who conducted the Army's first investigation into the abuse, told Congress on Tuesday that he believed the pictures were taken by military personnel using their personal digital cameras.

But Warner has said he believes some were staged as part of the interrogation process.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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