New photos showing apparent abuse of Iraqi prisoners drew strong reactions in Arab media Saturday.
"Here is the U.S. Navy stirring the storm that the Abu Ghraib (scandal) has evoked before," an Al-Jazeera commentator said, in a report with images from the Abu Ghraib prison as well as the newly revealed photos.
One photo was published on the front page of the daily Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. It showed three hooded prisoners pressed against one another on a floor with what appear to be white sheets wrapped around their torsos. The photo caption read: "Signs of a new scandal."
The U.S. military has launched a criminal investigation into the photographs, which appear to show Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees, and photos of what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head.
Some of the photos have date stamps suggesting they were taken in May 2003, which could make them the earliest evidence of possible abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The far more brutal practicesoccurred months later.
Separately, a military judge on Saturday ordered the former commander of U.S. prisons in Iraq to testify at the trial of a soldier who says he was ordered to abuse detainees at Abu Ghraib.
The judge, Col. James Pohl, said Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski's testimony at the trial of Sgt. Javal Davis would be limited to conditions at Abu Ghraib and the interaction there between guards and military interrogators.
Davis and Spc. Sabrina Harman had pretrial hearings at Fort Hood, Texas Saturday that were originally scheduled to begin next year in Baghdad.
"The two (Navy SEALs and Abu Ghraib abuse) scandals confirm the image about the Americans known in the Middle East: that the Americans are not a charity or a humanitarian organization that is leading an experiment of democracy," said Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese leftist newspaper As-Safir. "Rather, (the U.S. government) is leading a retaliatory operation following the Sept. 11 attacks."
Noureddine said the photos "will definitely be front page news" in Monday's edition of his paper.
Yonadem Kana, a member of an Iraqi government advisory and oversight group, said the photos were "rare cases exaggerated by the media.
"As long as we do not have enough (Iraqi) forces, our situation will witness similar incidents," Kana said, adding that the Iraqi government will not keep silent over the photos.
On a Web site known for its militant content, contributors posted some of the photos, showing the faces of the Navy SEALs - one with a soldier sitting on top of a group of prisoners - but with the faces of the prisoners blackened. The photos were similar to those carried by the satellite stations but had comments on them such as "God destroy America," and "God help the Mujahedeen," or holy fighters.
In a damage-control campaign after an outraged reaction from the Arab world on the Abu Ghraib pictures, President Bush appeared on Arab television in May to tell audiences in the region that the torture was the act of a few.
A senior U.S. military officer said Saturday that the latest pictures do not accurately reflect the good work done by the thousands of American soldiers in Iraq. But Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a senior U.S. Central Command officer, acknowledged in an interview with al-Jazeera television that some people will use the photos to tarnish the image of America's military.
Kimmitt, who was the military spokesman in Iraq at the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal and is now based in Qatar, told al-Jazeera that he believes the photos show the acts of an isolated few.
After months of ongoing investigation, Kimmitt said the number of U.S. military troops involved in acts of abuse has been found to be very limited.
Asked by al-Jazeera if such pictures are a problem for the military, Kimmitt said they are certainly a "tool" and some will try to use them to show the U.S. military in a negative light.
An Associated Press reporter found more than 40 of the new pictures among hundreds in an album posted on a commercial photo-sharing Web site by a woman who said her husband brought them fromafter his tour of duty. It is unclear who took the pictures, which the Navy said it was investigating after the AP furnished copies to get comment for this story.
These and other photos found by the AP appear to show the immediate aftermath of raids on civilian homes. One man is lying on his back with a boot on his chest. A mug shot shows a man with an automatic weapon pointed at his head and a gloved thumb jabbed into his throat. In many photos, faces have been blacked out. What appears to be blood drips from the heads of some. A family huddles in a room in one photo and others show debris and upturned furniture.
"These photographs raise a number of important questions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs) and detainees," Navy Cmdr. Jeff Bender, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, said in a written response to questions. "I can assure you that the matter will be thoroughly investigated."
The photos were turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which instructed the SEAL command to determine whether they show any serious crimes, Bender said Friday. That investigation will determine the identities of the troops and what they were doing in the photos.
Some of the photos recall aspects of the images from Abu Ghraib, which led to charges against seven soldiers accused of humiliating and assaulting prisoners. In several of the photos obtained by the AP, grinning men wearing U.S. flags on their uniforms, and one with a tattoo of a SEAL trident, take turns sitting or lying atop what appear to be three hooded and handcuffed men in the bed of a pickup truck.
A reporter found the photos, which since have since been removed from public view, while researching the prosecution of a group of SEALs who allegedly beat prisoners and photographed one of them in degrading positions. Those photos, taken with a SEAL's personal camera, haven't been publicly released.
Though they have alarmed SEAL commanders, the photographs found by the AP do not necessarily show anything illegal, according to experts in the laws of war who reviewed photos at AP's request.
Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge who teaches at the United States Military Academy, told AP the images showed "stupid" and "juvenile" behavior - but not necessarily a crime.
Solis told CBS News, Radio, "I don't see any obvious war crimes. What I see is foolishness. I see some bad judgment. But as a former prosecutor, I don't see anything that grabs me and says, 'I want to take that into court."'
John Hutson, a retired rear admiral who served as the Navy's Judge Advocate General from 1997 to 2000, said they suggested possible Geneva Convention violations. Those international laws prohibit souvenir photos of prisoners of war.
"It's pretty obvious that these pictures were taken largely as war trophies," Hutson said. "Once you start allowing that kind of behavior, the next step is to start posing the POWs in order to get even better pictures."
At a minimum, the pictures violate Navy regulations that prohibit photographing prisoners other than for intelligence or administrative purposes, according to Bender, the SEALs spokesman.
All Naval Special Warfare personnel were told that prior to deployment, he said, but "it is obvious from some of the photographs that this policy was not adhered to."
The images were posted to the Internet site Smugmug.com. The woman who posted them told the AP they were on the camera her husband brought back from Iraq. She said her husband has returned to Iraq. He does not appear in photos with prisoners.
The Navy goes to great lengths to protect the identities and whereabouts of its 2,400 SEALs - which stands for Navy Sea, Air, Land - many of whom have classified counterterrorist missions around the globe.
"Some of these photos clearly depict faces and names of Naval Special Warfare personnel, which could put them or their families at risk," Bender said.
Out of safety concerns, the AP is not identifying the woman who posted the photos.
The wife said she was upset that a reporter was able to view the album, which includes family snapshots. Hundreds of other photos depict everyday military life in Iraq, some showing commandos standing around piles of weapons and waving wads of cash.
The images were found through the online search engine Google. The same search today leads to the Smugmug.com Web page, which now prompts the user for a password. Nine scenes from the SEAL camp remain in Google's archived version of the page.
"I think it's fair to assume that it would be very hard for most consumers to know all the ways the search engines can discover Web pages," said Smugmug spokesman Chris MacAskill.
Before the site was password protected, the AP purchased reprints for 29 cents each.
Some men in the photos wear patches that identify them as members of Seal Team Five, based in Coronado, and the unit's V-shaped insignia decorates a July Fourth celebration cake.
The photos surfaced amid a case of prisoner abuse involving members of another SEAL team also stationed at Coronado, a city near San Diego.
Navy prosecutors have charged several members of SEAL Team Seven with abusing a suspect in the bombing a Red Cross facility. According to charge sheets and testimony during a military hearing last month, SEALs posed in the back of a Humvee for photos that allegedly humiliated Manadel al-Jamadi, who died hours later at Abu Ghraib.
Testimony from that case suggest personal cameras became increasingly common on some SEAL missions last year.
Sgt. Davis, one of the two soldiers accused in the Abu-Ghraib scandal who had pretrial hearings at Fort Hood on Saturday, had told investigators that military intelligence personnel appeared to approve of the abuse. "We were told they had different rules," he told investigators, according to an Army report.
Karpinski has denied knowing about any mistreatment of prisoners until photographs were made public at the end of April showing hooded and naked prisoners being tormented by their U.S. captors. She was relieved of her command after abuses at the prison came to light.
Karpinski could avoid taking the stand by invoking her right against self-incrimination, but her attorney, Neal Puckett, said Saturday that she will testify.
"She's always been willing to cooperate in any investigation," Puckett said from Washington. "There'd be no reason for her not to testify, if she was asked to do by the Army."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Karpinski HAD said a "conspiracy" among top U.S. commanders left her to blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A report issued by an independent panel of nongovernment experts blamed Karpinski for leadership failures that "helped set the conditions at the prison which led to the abuses."
Charges against Davis, a native of Roselle, New Jersey, include conspiracy to maltreat detainees, assault, dereliction of duty and lying in official statements. He has acknowledged stepping on the fingers and toes of detainees, but denied hurting anyone and said he was ordered to "soften them up."
Harman, of Lorton, Virginia, is accused of photographing some of the abuse, participating in sexual humiliation of naked prisoners, writing "rapist" on the leg of a detainee who then was forced to pose naked with other prisoners, and placing wires in the hands of a detainee and telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell off a box.
She was photographed standing behind naked, hooded Iraqis stacked in a human pyramid and also shown next to a dead body packed in ice giving thumbs-up signs with Spc. Graner.
Graner, described as the ringleader and the father of the child of Pfc. Lynndie England, is set to appear in court on Monday. He is expected to seek dismissal of charges on grounds of undue command influence.
The three are among seven members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company charged with humiliating and assaulting prisoners at the Baghdad prison.
Graner, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, is scheduled for trial beginning Jan. 7. Davis's trial will begin Feb. 1. Harman's trial date has not yet been determined, according to Fort Hood officials.