The Bush administration is considering whether to publicly release all photographs and videotapes seized from U.S. soldiers in Iraq depicting abuse of Iraqi detainees. U.S. lawmakers viewed many of the images Wednesday as they debated whether the pictures should be released to the public.
The images, on computer disks and on videos, were delivered to the Capitol from the Pentagon to allow members of the Senate and House to view them before they were returned to the Defense Department several hours later.
Many lawmakers said the images were worse than the photographs depicting the abuse and sexual humiliation of detainees released to the news media a few weeks ago, but they stopped short of describing in detail what they saw.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, spoke for many. ?What we left the observation period with is a sick feeling, appalling in what we saw, a range of photographs that reinforce abuse,? he said.
Although the decision whether to publicly release the photographs rests with the Bush Administration, lawmakers have their own opinions and are divided on the issue.
Congressman Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican, believes they should be made public. He spoke before the photographs arrived on Capitol Hill.
?I rise respectfully to encourage the administration to bring an end to the lurid parade of photographs leaking their way into the national media by immediately releasing all photographic records of abuse of prisoners by American personnel,? he said. ?Abraham Lincoln said it best: ?Give the people the facts and the Republic will be saved.? In this case, Mr. Speaker, the Republic we save may be that free and democratic Republic of Iraq.?
Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, agrees. ?It is best for us to get this out, get it behind us and be able to move on to the goal that we want, which is to stabilize Iraq,? he added.
However, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia, said that he believes disclosure of the photographs of the detainees could constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which he noted spell out that "such persons shall be protected against insults and curiosity".
A day after a video was posted on an al-Qaida-linked website showing the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq, a grisly killing that the perpetrators said was in retribution for the prisoner abuse, Senator Warner expressed concern that releasing more photographs could jeopardize the safety of other Americans in Iraq and elsewhere. ?I feel it could possibly endanger the men and women in the armed forces as they are serving valiantly at great risk, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in other areas of the world,? he said.
Senator Warner said release of the photos could also jeopardize the prosecution of U.S. personnel who were involved in the abuse.
More than 1000 images were available to lawmakers to view, many of which appeared unrelated to the prisoner abuse scandal.
Army General Antonio Taguba, who wrote a report detailing the abuse, told Senators this week he believes the photos were taken by military personnel using their personal digital cameras.
The Pentagon and Congress are investigating the abuse cases, including who bears responsibility in the chain of military command. Some congressional Democrats have called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation in the wake of the scandal. President Bush has expressed his steadfast support for the Secretary.