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General: No pattern of abuse at prisons

New Abu Ghraib images involve body
Spc. Charles Graner and Spc. Sabrina Harmon pose with a body packed in ice.
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Gallery: Abuse at Abu Ghraib prison (Contains graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.)

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Senate Armed Services Committee
Iraqi Prisoner Abuse
U.S. Military

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chief of U.S. forces in the Middle East told a Senate panel Wednesday there was no pattern of prisoner abuse by American troops.

But Gen. John Abizaid said preliminary findings by the Army's inspector general cite problems in training and organization and recommend "very specific changes."

"I specifically asked the [inspector general] of the Army, did he believe that there was a pattern of abuse of prisoners in the Central Command area of operation?" Abizaid testified. "And he looked at both Afghanistan and Iraq, and he said no."

Pentagon investigators have found a new disc of images documenting the abuse of inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, announced during the hearing.

"I'll soon advise the committee on the conditions under which -- and the timing -- it can be viewed," said Warner, R-Virginia.

Two photographs that have recently surfaced appear to show U.S. soldiers gloating over a body.

In one, Spc. Charles Graner of the 372nd Military Police is seen smiling, giving a thumbs up.

The other photo shows Spc. Sabrina Harmon, a member of the same unit, in a similar pose.

The identity of the body seen in the pictures is not yet known.

While the pictures have not yet been authenticated, the soldiers who appear in them are among those who already face charges in the abuse scandal.

Abizaid and Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of American and coalition troops in Iraq, were the main witnesses at the hearing. Also testifying was Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the officer in charge of prison operations there.

Sanchez said he put the prison under the command of a military intelligence brigade in November to improve the facility's defenses after a series of mortar attacks in late 2003. But he said responsibility for running the prison remained under a military police brigade.

He warned senators that "this awful episode at Abu Ghraib must not allow us to get distracted" from the war against insurgents in Iraq.

"The honor and value systems of our armed forces are solid and the bedrock of what makes us the best in the world," Sanchez said. "There has been no catastrophic failure, and America's armed forces will never compromise their honor."

He denied a published report that he approved the use of sleep deprivation, excessive noise and intimidation in one case, saying, "I never approved the use of any of those measures ... in the 12 and a half months that I've been in Iraq."

Photographs of U.S. troops mistreating naked, hooded prisoners at Abu Ghraib, near Baghdad, surfaced in April. Members of Congress were given the chance last week to review the Pentagon's full collection of photographs and video, which several lawmakers said were more graphic than those previously made public.

The Army has been investigating the abuses since January. Seven soldiers -- all members of an Army reserve military police company -- have been charged in the case, and six officers have received career-ending reprimands.

One soldier, Spc. Jeremy Sivits, pleaded guilty in a court-martial held Wednesday in Baghdad and was sentenced to a year's confinement. (Full story)

But some of the soldiers facing charges have said they were acting under orders from military intelligence personnel at the prison.

Reports of male detainees being abused by being stripped naked and forced to wear female underwear began to surface in December 2003, but senior officials said had "collective disbelief" that such activities could be undertaken by U.S. military, according to two senior officers familiar with the investigation.

It was not until January that a soldier made a direct report of misconduct, prompting Sanchez to order a criminal investigation.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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