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Lawmakers view new photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse

WASHINGTON—The latest round of photos and videos of American personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners—revealed only to lawmakers Wednesday—includes images of Iraqi women exposing their breasts and of hooded Iraqi detainees masturbating, members of Congress said after viewing them.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said there were also some "gruesome scenes" that showed dead bodies, but without any explanation of how the victims had been killed or why.

"What we saw is appalling," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

The photos and videos are the latest evidence in a scandal that's earned the United States condemnation from around the world, threatened President Bush's re-election hopes and put Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the defensive. The pictures of half-naked Muslim women are likely to further inflame the Islamic world, which puts a premium on female modesty.

Some lawmakers were skeptical that knowledge of the abuses was confined to the participants.

"You can't tell me that all this was going on with seven or eight Army privates," Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said. "And so the question is, how far up the chain of command did these orders (go)?"

Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., said the pictures and videotapes he saw paralleled the images of humiliated prisoners stripped naked that already had been released from the probe at Abu Ghraib.

Others agreed.

"More of the same," said Sens. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., and John Edwards, D-N.C. Both said they were pained by what they'd seen.

Corzine said the sheer mass of photographic evidence deepened his conviction that the military's command structure had failed. He also said he doubted the abuses were the work of a handful of underlings, without the knowledge of commanding officers.

Senators and members of the House of Representatives viewed the photos and videos in private rooms on both sides of the Capitol.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., described the experience as numbing. Though the room was crowded, he said, "You could hear a pin drop."

Expecting that the material will be leaked eventually, many members said the Defense Department, which has control of the images, should make them publicly available.

Brownback said all the images that involved Iraqis should be released, but that he saw no compelling reason to release photos that involved only Americans engaged in sexual acts.

"That's basically pornography," Brownback said. "They can be used for courts-martial, but not released to the world."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said after viewing the images that she didn't think the newest batch should become public.

"I think it's important that we see them so we know what we're dealing with," she said, "but I think the nation has had enough of a sample."

Wednesday night, CBS's "60 Minutes II" was to air a video of U.S. service members talking about their hatred of Iraqi prisoners.

The tape is part of a video diary made at Camp Bucca last summer by an unidentified soldier in the 800th MP Brigade. It shows a dead sand viper, and the soldier comments that the snakes already had killed two prisoners.

"Who cares?" she says. "That's two less for me to worry about."

The 800th MP Brigade later was transferred to Abu Ghraib.

Many lawmakers declined to discuss the newest batch of photographs and videos other than to say they were disgusted.

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(Knight Ridder correspondents Frank Davies, Lauren Markoe, Chris Mondics and Alan Bjerga contributed to this report.)

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(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Iraq

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