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Rumsfeld testifies before Senate Armed Services Committee

From the Wolf Blitzer Reports staff in Washington:

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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Donald H. Rumsfeld
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came to the Senate Armed Services Committee knowing the spotlight he's always embraced would not be kind to him on this day. He came ready with a statement of contrition.

"To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the armed forces I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation," the defense secretary said in his opening statement.

Rumsfeld said at first he didn't recognize how important it was to explain to Congress and the president what happened to Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. He began to lay out proposals to address the abuse, including the appointment of former senior officials to monitor investigations and the idea of compensating prisoners.

Early on, a handful of hecklers interrupted his opening statement shouting, "Fire Rumsfeld! Fire Rumsfeld!"

Rumsfeld sparred with another political heavyweight from his own party over accountability.

Asked by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, "What were the instructions to the guards?" Rumsfeld answered, "That is what the investigation that I've indicated has been undertaken, is determining."

Sen. McCain pressed Rumsfeld, saying, "Mr. secretary, that's a very simple, straightforward question."

To which Rumsfeld answered, "Well, the -- as the Chief of Staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people. They're not trained to interrogate. And their instructions are to, in the case of Iraq, to adhere to the Geneva Conventions."

The secretary met head-on with one of the Bush administration's chief adversaries in Congress.

"The question is, whether this was brought to you -- and when did you know? When did you know it? You gave us a laundry list in your presentation on it. I'm trying to find out because it's been published that you were notified about this a series of times and advised to do something about it and nothing was done," said Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.

"It's not correct to say nothing was done. I -- I -- you're making a set of conclusions that are just simply not accurate," responded Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld later admitted that he did not look at the original pictures until Thursday night, and is aghast at how they were made public.

"There are people running around with digital cameras, taking these unbelievable pictures, sending them out against the law, and they haven't even arrived at the Pentagon yet!" Rumsfeld said.

A chilling exchange with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham brought a warning.

"I want to prepare the public. Apparently the worst is yet to come, potentially, in terms of disturbing events. We don't need to leave here thinking that we've seen the worst. There's more to come. Is that correct?" asked Graham.

"I indicated in my remarks that there are a lot more pictures and many investigations under way," responded Rumsfeld.

And the end game: Rumsfeld is asked point-blank about his future.

"Secretary Rumsfeld, people are calling for your resignation. Somebody is drafting an article of impeachment against you right now," said Graham. "What do you say to those people who are calling for your resignation?"

Rumsfeld's answer: "I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it."


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