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Source: Rumsfeld to form abuse probe panel

Bush tells Jordan's king he's 'sorry for humiliation' of prisoners

Bush said he told Jordan's King Abdullah, background, that the prisoner photos made him and others "sick to our stomachs."
Stay with CNN-USA for ongoing updates on the controversy over abuse of prisoners in Iraq, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld prepares to testify Friday before the House and Senate Armed Services Committee.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is targeted over his handling of the abuse scandal.

CNN's John King on President Bush reaching out to an Arab world angry over prisoner abuse in Iraq.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will meet behind closed doors to discuss the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal.

Iraqis protest outside the Abu Ghraib prison, while inside its new commander apologizes for the actions of a few.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will tell congressional committees Friday that he plans to form an independent panel to review how the Pentagon handled investigations into allegations of abuses of Iraqi prisoners, a senior administration official said.

He also will bring a poster-sized blowup of a Pentagon press release to counter accusations that he tried to keep lawmakers in the dark about the case.

His testimony comes at a time when some Democratic lawmakers and editorials have called for Rumsfeld to resign. Even many Republican lawmakers have expressed anger with the Pentagon leadership.

President Bush dismissed such calls Thursday but also has made clear he believes he was kept in the dark by the Pentagon about the scope of the problem.

"He is an important part of my Cabinet and he will stay in my Cabinet," Bush said at a White House news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

The White House said the president learned from media accounts that there were pictures of the prisoner abuse and a classified Pentagon report on the problem.

Senior officials said Rumsfeld also admitted he was unaware of certain information about the investigations -- an issue certain to come up in his congressional appearances. (Full story)

Rumsfeld starts his day on Capitol Hill at 11:45 a.m. before a two-hour open hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Afterward comes a closed session before the full Senate, followed by a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee at 3 p.m.

Rumsfeld will be accompanied at each session by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several top officials of the Army. (Full story)

Earlier in the day, Bush said he told Abdullah that he is "sorry for the humiliation suffered" by Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. troops.

Bush said he told Abdullah the photos made him and others "sick to our stomachs." He said he made it clear that "wrongdoers will be brought to justice."

Among those calling Thursday for Rumsfeld to leave office was Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

"For the good of our country, the safety of our troops, and our image around the globe, Secretary Rumsfeld should resign," Harkin said in a statement. "If he does not resign forthwith, the president should fire him."

"He has to go. Nothing, I think, less will suffice," Harkin told CNN. "It's not enough just for Secretary Rumsfeld to say that some people in the lower ranks are responsible for this -- this goes all the way up."

A visual aid

"I think ultimately you have to go right up the chain to the secretary of defense or to the civilian leadership of the military," said Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

"We don't know where this is going to lead."

Roberts said he wants to know "why on Earth" Bush and members of the Senate Armed Services and Senate Intelligence committees didn't learn of the extent of the abuse until the news media aired photographs showing naked Iraqis in humiliating positions as American soldiers smiled.

Rumsfeld plans to address such questions by bringing with him to Capitol Hill a poster-sized blowup of a news release issued January 16 on an investigation of prisoner abuse in Iraq, a Pentagon official told CNN.

Rumsfeld has asserted that U.S. Central Command "issued a press release to the world" the day after the investigation was launched and that the military was not trying to hide anything. The release did not name the prison or indicate the nature or scale of the abuse. (See releaseexternal link)

The investigation actually was one of several launched after allegations of abuse were sent up the chain of command in January, Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

One of the investigations, led by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, confirmed that Iraqi prisoners were being abused by soldiers and military contractors, according to a report of the probe.

Investigators interviewed dozens of witnesses and looked at "numerous photos and videos portraying in graphic detail actual detainee abuse" that were taken by personnel at Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The report said the abuse included threatening detainees with a pistol and with military dogs, sodomizing a prisoner with a chemical light and perhaps a broomstick, forcing naked prisoners into compromising positions and accusing them of being homosexuals. (Full story)

Six soldiers have been criminally charged in the case and six others have been reprimanded, with two of those relieved of duty, Rumsfeld has said.

Members of Congress also want to know why they weren't briefed last week when Rumsfeld testified just hours before CBS aired photos of the abuse.

Thursday morning, Rumsfeld canceled a planned speech in Philadelphia to focus on his Friday testimony. He met Thursday morning with four Republican members of the Senate Armed Service Committee.

One of those members, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, told CNN that Rumsfeld was upbeat and confident. He said Rumsfeld believes there's a "rational" explanation for everything that happened in the prison.

The Economist magazine Thursday called for Rumsfeld to resign, as did an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman called on Bush to fire Rumsfeld "today, not tomorrow or next month."

An editorial in the Washington Post blames Rumsfeld for developing the system that enabled the abuse to occur. The paper said Rumsfeld overturned decades of military practice handling detainees in foreign countries, including ruling that the U.S. military would no longer be bound by the Geneva Conventions.

Other developments

  • The Red Cross said Thursday it had "repeatedly requested U.S. authorities to take corrective action." Antonella Notari, chief spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said "some measures have already been taken," without revealing the ICRC's recommendations. (Full story)
  • The Washington Post published more photos Thursday apparently depicting U.S. soldiers mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib. One shows a female soldier, the same one shown in previous photos released by CBS, holding a leash tethered to the neck of a naked Iraqi prisoner lying on the ground. Another photo shows an Iraqi prisoner chained to a bed frame with women's underwear covering his face.
  • A bipartisan group of senators is urging the Pentagon to demolish the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in order to exorcise a symbol of both Saddam Hussein's torture chambers and an embarrassing episode for the U.S. military. (Full story)
  • On Wednesday, Bush told two Arabic-language television networks that abuse of Iraqi prisoners was "abhorrent" and would reinforce anti-American sentiment in the region. "I think people in the Middle East who want to dislike America will use this as an excuse to remind people about their dislike." Bush told the Al-Arabiya network. "I think the average citizen will say, 'This isn't the country I've been told about.' " (Full story)
  • An Iraqi prisoner who died in November while being interrogated by a CIA officer and contract translator arrived at Abu Ghraib prison with "broken ribs and breathing difficulties" after being arrested by Navy SEALs, U.S. officials said Thursday. Unnamed Pentagon officials were quoted Wednesday saying the man had been delivered to the prison in "good health."
  • CNN's John King, Jamie McIntyre, Ed Henry and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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