President Bush was to address a growing prison abuse scandal on Arab television on Wednesday, as reports of 12 suspicious deaths of detainees in U.S. custody and other claims of abuse emerged.
A U.S. prison commander apologized.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday that Mr. Bush will conduct two ten-minute interviews with the U.S.-sponsored Al-Hurra television network and the Arab network Al-Arabiya.
"This is an opportunity for the president to speak directly to the people in Arab nations and let them know that the images that we all have seen are shameless and unacceptable," said McClellan.
About 2,000 Iraqis on Wednesday protested the treatment of prisoners, chanting "democracy doesn't mean killing innocent people." They demonstrated outside the Abu Ghraib prison, a torture center under Saddam Hussein and now the epicenter of the abuse allegations against U.S. troops.
Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the new commander of the prison, apologized on Wednesday for the abuse to a group of Arab and western reporters.
"These are violations not only of our national policy but of how we conduct ourselves as members of the international community," he said.
The Army said Tuesday that one soldier has been court-martialed for using excessive force in shooting to death an Iraqi prisoner last September and disclosed that it had referred to the Justice Department a homicide case involving a CIA contract interrogator alleged to be responsible for the death of an Iraqi prisoner last November.
Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder, the Army's provost marshal, told reporters there are ten other investigations underway of prisoner deaths mostly in Iraq and another ten pending cases involving possible assault of prisoners, including one sexual assault.
Many of the allegations of abuse were contained in an internal Pentagon report completed in March.
On Capitol Hill, Senators expressed anger that they had not been informed earlier of the charges, and the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers did not read the report on the abuse until this week, if at all.
"The Congress … has been kept completely in the dark," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Senators called for Rumsfeld to explain the situation in an open congressional hearing as soon as possible. In a closed-door hearing, the Intelligence Committee on Wednesday expects to hear testimony from senior officials in both the Army and the intelligence community.
Rumsfeld said he had read an executive summary of the report. He denied any footdragging.
"These things are complicated, they take some time," he said of the investigations.
The prison scandal began when photographs wereshowing prisoners hooded and nude, forced into sexual positions and piled together. One was attached to wires and was allegedly told that he might be electrocuted.
"The images that we've seen that include U.S. forces are deeply disturbing, both because of the fundamental unacceptability of what they depicted and because the actions by U.S. military personnel in those photos do not in any way represent the values of our country or of the armed forces," Rumsfeld said Tuesday in his first public comments on the allegations.
The military, which had reviewed Iraq prison policies in the fall for an undisclosed reason, launched five probes after the photographs came to light in January. Six military police face are facing criminal charges as a result of the probes and seven officers have been disciplined administratively.
CBS National Security Correspondent David Martin reports one investigation found that military police were instructed by military intelligence officers to soften up the Iraqi prisoners to make them more compliant during interrogations. It listed alleged abuses including beating a detainee with a broom handle and a chair, sodomizing one with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick, having sex with a female prisoner, and using dogs to intimidate — and, in one case, attack — prisoners.
Joint Chiefs vice chairman Gen. Peter Pace said Pentagon officials agreed with the internal Army report's findings that the prisons in Iraq were understaffed, and that those serving as prison guards had been inadequately trained.
"Those soldiers were not following orders," Pace told the CBS News Early Show. He added: "This brings discredit and dishonor on all of us who serve in the military and brings discredit on our country."
On Tuesday, the U.S. military said it was ordering troops to use blindfolds instead of hoods, and requiring interrogators to get permission before depriving inmates of sleep — one of the most common techniques reported by freed Iraqis. The new head of Abu Ghraib said it was cutting its inmate population by half.
The U.S.-led coalition has about a dozen prisons around Iraq holding a total of 7,000 to 8,000 inmates.
U.S. officials have said that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an aberration.
But Iraqis freed from coalition jails stepped forward with new allegations. An Iraqi human rights group, the Human Rights Organization in Iraq, claimed interrogation methods allegedly include jolts from cattle prods or stun guns. Beatings during arrest and interrogation were said to be routine. The military says hitting prisoners is not allowed.
One former prisoner, Muwaffaq Abbas, on Tuesday displayed scarred wrists, black eyes and a gouge on his eyebrow that he said came from nine days in a U.S. lockup. Abbas, like many other former prisoners, said he was prevented from sleeping by booming rap music and sadistic guards.
"Sometimes we fell asleep despite the loud music. The soldier would put a bullhorn next to my ear and scream," said Abbas, a Baghdad lawyer.
Rumsfeld said investigations were being opened to determine whether abuses occurred in other prisons and camps run by the U.S. military, including the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
In Baghdad, Iraq's U.S.-appointed human rights minister, Abdul-Basat al-Turki, said Tuesday he had resigned to protest abuses by American guards, and Interior Minister Samir Shaker Mahmoud al-Sumeidi demanded that Iraqi officials be allowed to help run the prisons. The United Nations human rights commission has launched a probe.