- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Members of Congress yesterday viewed hundreds of classified photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse, and although all condemned the images as horrendous and disturbing, they disagreed over whether the pictures were worse than those already made public.

Some said they weren’t dramatically different from photos already widely published.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said the photos were “very, very appalling” but “consistent with photos you’ve seen in the press to date.” He also said they included other acts that hadn’t been seen yet.

Lawmakers told the Associated Press that some photos depicted sexual intercourse, including what appeared to be consensual sex involving U.S. military personnel. Others showed military dogs snarling at cowering prisoners, Iraqi women commanded to expose their breasts, photos of sex acts, including forced homosexual sex, and hooded Iraqi prisoners being forced to masturbate, lawmakers said.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, said the abuse in the photos he viewed yesterday “made me sick to my stomach” and were “purely horrendous,” including Iraqi prisoners being forced to perform sexual acts. He said, however, that although the depictions were “much more overtly sexual” than previously published photos, they were “different in kind, not degree” of abusiveness.

Some Democrats disagreed.

“It was worse,” Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, said without elaborating.

Sen. Mark Dayton, Minnesota Democrat, told CNN that he saw “worse and more graphic depictions” yesterday.

Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, said at least one photo led him to think that more military officials, perhaps higher up in the chain of command, were involved in the abuse.

The photo he referred to is an already-publicized photo showing naked Iraqi prisoners tied together on the floor. But Mr. Nelson said in yesterday’s presentation, that photo showed a wider angle and he was able to count seven or eight pairs of boots of U.S. military personnel standing to one side of the scene.

“Now, you can’t tell me that all of this was going on with seven or eight Army privates,” Mr. Nelson said. “The question is, how far up the chain of command did these orders come from, and where did that failure of the command and control occur? And we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, agreed, saying the photos were “evidence of a total breakdown in discipline and military order.”

He said seeing the photos “reinforced my view that some of the conduct was orchestrated in a manner to suggest direction or tolerance beyond the military police involved.”

“The question becomes, ‘Where did that direction come from?’”

But Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said nothing he saw yesterday led him to think that higher-ups were involved.

“To the contrary,” he said, “it was consistent” with what top Defense Department officials have told lawmakers.

“I don’t think it changes anything,” Mr. Cornyn said of yesterday’s pictures. “This is a very serious matter. … Hopefully, justice will be done.”

The images, which remain in the possession of the Department of Defense, were mostly digital photos with a few video clips apparently made with a digital camera, lawmakers said.

Because the images are part of an active military investigation, Senate Republican leaders argued that they should be kept classified for now.

“These pictures at this time … should not be released into the public domain,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican.

He said authorities should not release the images until trials begin for U.S. soldiers accused in the abuse, to protect U.S. troops from retaliation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the new photos “reinforce my belief that a full congressional investigation is necessary.”

“Based on what I have seen, the photos that have been released publicly and the accounts of abuse in the Taguba report provide an accurate sense of what happened to the prisoners,” she said, referring to the investigation report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba.

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