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'A Failure Of Leadership'

Army Major Gen. Antonio M. Taguba testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, May 11, 2004, in Washington. Taguba is the author of a Pentagon report that found numerous "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib, a U.S.-run prison complex near Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
AP
The Army general who probed abuse at Abu Ghraib prison told senators on Tuesday that the mistreatment of detainees was due to "a failure of leadership."

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, author of the Pentagon report that found numerous "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at the U.S.-run prison complex near Baghdad, appeared before the Senate Armed Services committee as questions mounted over what role intelligence officers played in the abuse.

Asked what allowed the abuse to happen, Taguba replied, "Failure of leadership, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision."

He and a top Pentagon official disagreed over who was in charge of the guards and what their role was in intelligence collection.

The hearing Monday came as the Pentagon agreed to disclose as-yet unreleased photos and at least one video to the committee. The administration would not say whether it would allow the public to see them.

In a new picture released this week, a naked prisoner was shown cowering, surrounded by military personnel holding dogs. Senators learned Tuesday that dogs were allowed in interrogation rooms if approved by commanders, but were supposed to be muzzled.

Committee chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said the Abu Ghraib abuse "represents an extremely rare chapter in the otherwise proud history of our armed forces."

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., took umbrage at the outrage over the abuse. The mistreated prisoners, he said, are "not there for traffic violations … many of them probably have American blood on their hands."

But other senators questioned whether the abuses were the acts of individual soldiers, or encouraged by military policy at some level.

"They reek of an organized effort and methodical preparation for interrogation," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. said. "The collars used on the prisoners, the dogs and the cameras, did not appear out of thin air."

Attorneys for Pfc. Lynndie R. England, an Army reservist charged in the abuse, said the photos were staged by intelligence agents to intimidate other prisoners, and appearing naked in front of a young woman would be especially humiliating to Iraqi men. The lawyer for Spc. Charles Graner, another accused soldier, says a civilian contractor working for military intelligence and soldiers with military intelligence are seen in at least one of the pictures.

A 24-page Red Cross report has cited abuses, some "tantamount to torture," including brutality, forcing people to wear hoods, humiliation and threats of imminent execution.

Taguba told senators that the guards "were directed to change facility procedures to 'set the conditions' for (military intelligence) interrogations."

However, he did not conclude that the abuses were part of an official policy.

"We did not gain any evidence where it was an overall military intelligence policy," Taguba said. "I think it was a matter of soldiers with their interaction with military intelligence personnel who they perceive to be competent authority who were influencing their action to set the conditions for interrogations."

Later Taguba said, "I would say that (the guards) were probably influenced by others" rather than ordered.

Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, insisted that nothing in military policy led to the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

"From the outset, the United States government has recognized and made clear that the Geneva Conventions apply" in Iraq, Cambone said. "Methods for interrogation were sanctioned under the Geneva Conventions."

But Taguba and Cambone disagreed on the significance of a Nov. 19 order giving a military intelligence unit command over Abu Ghraib. Cambone said the military intelligence unit was given authority only over the jail, not the guards working there.

However, Taguba painted a picture of a struggle for control of Abu Ghraib between the military police unit, led by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, and the military intelligence unit, led by Col. Thomas Pappas.

"There was clear evidence based on my evidence that there was friction between those two commanders," Taguba said.

Taguba and Cambone also disagreed on whether it was appropriate for MPs to "set the conditions" for interrogations. Last fall Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller studied U.S. prisons in Iraq and said suggested that military police guards in Iraq "set the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of internees and detainees."

Miller's report came in August. Taguba said the abuse at Abu Ghraib began in mid-October.

Cambone said Miller, who has now taken over the Abu Ghraib jail, was merely "underscoring the need for military police and military intelligence personnel to act in a fashion such that the one did not undermine the efforts of the other."

Some lawmakers have suggested that the unique legal status of some detainees in the war on terrorism created a climate that contributed to the Abu Ghraib.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has said Iraqis are to be treated "consistent" with Geneva Conventions, but that the conventions do not apply "precisely."

Cambone says the conventions do, in fact, apply "precisely," and he promised to ask Rumsfeld to clarify what he meant.

According to Cambone, Rumsfeld is preparing a personal message to the troops expressing his dismay at the allegations, support for the mission and the importance of the Geneva Conventions.

"Complicating the understanding of the applicable rules of the Geneva Conventions is the fact that the detainees fall into several groups, including POWs, civilian detainees and criminal suspects," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk.

It's not clear yet what's going to happen to the additional pictures and videotape in the Pentagon's possession, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss. Warner says congressional leaders are still deciding whether all senators should be allowed to see them and how to arrange that. The question of making them public still seems to be resting with the Pentagon.