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Prisoner Abuse Investigator Testifies - 2004-05-10


A U.S. Senate panel is to hold its second public hearing into the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal Tuesday. The Army official who wrote a report detailing the abuses is to be the lead witness.

Army Major General Antonio Taguba is to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, four days after Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appeared before the panel to apologize for the prisoner abuse matter.

In his report, completed in March, General Taguba found numerous incidents of what he called 'sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses' by U.S. troops against Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Later Tuesday, the Pentagon's top intelligence official, Stephen Cambone, and other military officials, will appear before the Senate panel.

General Taguba's full report, along with photographs and videotapes seized from soldiers detailed at the prison, have been delivered to Capitol Hill. It is not clear which lawmakers will be able to view the material.

Some photos which have been leaked to the news media showing U.S. troops mistreating Iraqi prisoners have prompted worldwide outrage.

Some congressional Democrats have called for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to resign.

Among them is Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, who renewed his criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy. "President Bush has presided over America's steepest and deepest fall from grace in the history of our country, and the tragedy unfolding in Iraq is the direct result of a colossal failure of leadership," he said. "We all agree that the guards and interrogators who committed these abuses at Abu Ghraib prison should be held accountable. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But the responsibility for these abuses do not lie with them alone."

President Bush expressed strong support for Mr. Rumsfeld after a meeting with the defense secretary at the Pentagon.

At the Capitol, Republican lawmakers dismiss calls for Mr. Rumsfeld's departure, saying they are unjustified or premature.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee praised the Pentagon's response to the scandal, saying it took prompt action to investigate.

His comments came as the Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning the abuse and calling on government leaders to take steps to prevent such actions from happening again.

"This nation, our colleagues, this body, is shocked, is disturbed, is saddened, by the incidents that have occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq," he said. "These acts are deplorable, there is absolutely no excuse for what happened to those prisoners. The individuals who committed those despicable acts will be held accountable. Justice must be served in a swift manner, in fair manner, and in a transparent manner, and it will be."

The House of Representatives passed a similar resolution condemning the abuse last week.

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