WASHINGTON, May 7: Hundreds more photographs and at least two videos of abuse of Iraqi prisoners could worsen the scandal that has engulfed the US military, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned on Friday.
Rumsfeld said he and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looked at all the images for the first time Thursday night after days of trying to get copies from military investigators.
"If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse. That's just a fact," Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe," he said.
The scandal already has blackened the US reputation and damaged American credibility in the Arab world at a time of surging unrest in Iraq. Rumsfeld said there were possibly hundreds more images, both photographs and videos, that have been gathered as evidence for the army's investigation into abuses at Abu Ghraib, a prison near Baghdad.
"And if they're sent to some news organization, and taken out of the criminal prosecution channels that they're in, that's where we'll be," he said. "And it's not a pretty picture."
Rumsfeld and Myers denied that they had sought to cover up the abuses, insisting during three hours of questioning that the army had acted promptly after they were reported by a soldier in January.
He said he could not remember when he first told President George W. Bush about the abuse investigation, but faulted himself for not recognizing the impact it would have.
General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was at the meeting in which Bush was first informed, and believed it was in early February, Myers said. "My guess it was more an information item from us to him where we were transmitting and saying here is the problem," Rumsfeld said.
"The problem at that stage was one dimensional it wasn't three dimensional. It wasn't video, it wasn't color. It was a very different thing," he said. "Let there be no doubt about that he was just as blinded sided by the revelations as me, or the Congress and everyone else," Rumsfeld said of Bush.
Major General Antonio Taguba, who investigated events at Abu Ghraib, detailed the abuses and the fact that many were photographed in a damning report March 3 to Lieutenant General David McKiernan, the commander of ground forces in Iraq. -AFP