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Abuse 'Tantamount To Torture'

A Red Cross report says the abuse of some Iraqi prisoners was "tantamount to torture" and some abusive practices may have been accepted by the U.S.-led coalition, a newspaper reported Friday.

Another publication quotes a former U.S. interrogator as saying many of the Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib are innocent, and many of the workers collecting intelligence at the prison for the U.S. military are not qualified.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced tough questioning Friday on Capitol Hill over the abuse allegations. Some Democrats have called for his resignation, but President Bush on Thursday said Rumsfeld would remain in his Cabinet.

CBS News will broadcast a Special Report and will provide a Live Webcast of Secretary Rumsfeld's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Coverage begins at 11:45 a.m. ET

Rumsfeld on Friday was expected to call for formation of an independent commission to look into the abuses and how the Defense Department handled them, one Pentagon official said on condition of anonymity.

Sources also say Rumsfeld will apologize for not keeping Congress informed about the abuse investigation.

Mr. Bush on Thursday issued his first apology for the abuse.

"I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," he said in a Rose Garden press conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

The Washington Post reports aides to the president urged him to apologize a day earlier, when he offered interviews with Arab television in an effort to counter the diplomatic impact of the abuse charges.

The abuse controversy erupted last week when CBS News' 60 Minutes II broadcast photographs of apparent abuse. Many showed Iraqi prisoners hooded and naked, stacked in piles or simulating sexual acts.

The photos triggered at least five military investigations, and have led to criminal charges against six soldiers and administrative findings against seven others. The U.S. is reviewing 14 deaths of people in its custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Bush, Rumsfeld and other officials have insisted the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad were criminal acts by a few soldiers.

In excerpts of the confidential report delivered to coalition officials earlier this year, printed by the Wall Street Journal, the Red Cross cites evidence of "brutality against protected persons upon capture and initial custody, sometimes causing death or serious injury; absence of notification of arrest of persons … to their families" and "physical or psychological coercion during interrogation to secure information."

The abuse was not systematic for most prisoners, but it was systematic for those held for intelligence reasons, the report found. Those prisoners "were at high risk of being subjected to a variety of harsh treatments … which in some cases was tantamount to torture, in order to force cooperation with their interrogators," it read.

The Red Cross said the fact that abuses went on after agency officials notified commanders of the problems, "suggested that the use of ill-treatment against persons deprived of their liberty went beyond exceptional causes and might be considered as a practice tolerated by" the coalition.

Adding to the concerns over the pictures are questions over two dead men depicted in them, reports The New York Times.

One man has been identified as an inmate killed during a riot. But the other has not been identified, and does not appear to be one of the two Iraqi men whose deaths are under CIA investigation. The CIA is also probing a death in Afghanistan.

A U.S. Army report had also found evidence of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib, and that intelligence officers asked prison guards to "set the physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses."

The Army report disagreed with an earlier investigation of prisons in Iraq, by Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, suggested that guards should "set the conditions" for interrogations. Miller, once the head of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, recently took over Abu Ghraib and apologized for misconduct there.

Some of the abuse has been blamed on troops, but private contractors working for the CIA have also come under fire.

Torin Nelson, a former CACI interrogator, tells Britain's Guardian newspaper that even "cooks and truck drivers" were used to interrogate prisoners, and that many detainees are "innocent of any acts against the coalition".

A year before the Iraq invasion, the then-Army secretary warned his Pentagon bosses that there was inadequate control of private military contractors.

In a sign of continued problems with the tracking of contracts, Pentagon officials on Thursday acknowledged they have yet to identify which Army entity manages the multimillion-dollar contract for interrogators like the one accused in the Iraq prisoner abuse probe.

Rumsfeld also acknowledged his department hasn't completed rules to govern the 20,000 or so private security guards watching over U.S. officials, installations and private workers in Iraq.

In a March 2002 memo, former Army Secretary Thomas White complained to three Pentagon undersecretaries that "credible information on contract labor does not exist internal to the (Army) Department." The Army could not get rid of "unnecessary, costly or unsuitable contracted work" without full details of all the contracts, White wrote.

The contract with CACI International Inc. is one example. Pentagon officials said Thursday they have not determined which agency oversees the contract.

The Army report on alleged abuse says a CACI interrogator lied to investigators and ordered soldiers to abuse prisoners.

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