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Iraq Transition

Pentagon vows to probe Saddam photos

Comes amid furor caused by retracted Newsweek story


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Saturday's editions of the British newspaper feature more pictures of Saddam Hussein in custody.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military says it will "aggressively investigate" how photographs of Saddam Hussein in captivity -- including one of the deposed leader in his underwear -- were released to a London tabloid.

Senior U.S. military sources have said the military did not give photos to The Sun -- no matter what the newspaper says.

The tabloid published additional photos Saturday of Saddam and imprisoned members of his regime, one day after showing a nearly undressed Saddam on the front page of its Friday edition.

Alongside a color photograph showing the former leader standing in a white robe behind barbed wire, the Saturday paper features a black-and-white photo of Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," in prison.

Also featured is Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, known as "Chemical Sally" and "Mrs. Anthrax."

Chemical Ali is a suspect in a long list of crimes, including the gassing of Kurds in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ammash was one of Iraq's top biological weapons scientists.

According to the tabloid, U.S. "military sources said they handed over the photos in the hope of dealing a body blow to the resistance in Iraq."

Senior military officials said they first saw the photographs through diplomatic channels. They believe the U.S. Embassy got the photos and then gave them to the military to evaluate their authenticity.

In Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the Combined Press Information Center, said, "This was not an official release, and we are aggressively investigating to find out what happened, and why it happened."

The Pentagon issued a statement as well.

"These photos were taken in clear violation of DoD [Department of Defense] directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals," it said.

"Multi-National Forces-Iraq is disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the security, welfare, and detention of Saddam would take and provide these photos for public release."

Officials emphasized that because it was not a sanctioned government release, the United States is not in violation of the Geneva Conventions, although an individual might be.

Under Articles 13 and 14 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, POWs "must at all times be protected ... against insults and public curiosity," and also "are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honor."

Who took the pictures?

A U.S. military official in Baghdad told CNN that the pictures appeared to have been taken between January and April 2004, given Saddam's condition and some features in the background. That period would correspond with the time that Saddam was in U.S. military custody.

The official said the investigation will try to find out who took the pictures, when, and for what purposes. Only a small number of people have access to the cell where Saddam is held, and no personal cameras are permitted in the area.

Saddam is under video surveillance in his cell "24/7," said the official, who could not say if the still photographs were possibly taken by the surveillance camera.

Pentagon officials concede that Saddam remains under U.S. control, even though he is in the legal control of the Iraqi government and thus no longer considered an enemy of war.

The 68-year-old former dictator has appeared in public only once since his December, 2003, capture to face preliminary war crimes charges before an Iraqi judge in Baghdad. Special Report

Reaction

In Washington, Barham Salih, the Iraqi minister of planning, met Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"We are bound by the rule of law, and Saddam Hussein is accused of serious war crimes. But he will be judged in court at the end of the day. And he needs to be treated within accordance of what the law requires."

Rice said, "I have confidence in the Iraqi government's desire and capability to live up to its obligations for international standards concerning the treatment of Saddam Hussein."

Pentagon officials drew a distinction between these images and previous pictures it has released. After Saddam's capture the Pentagon released an image of him in a "spider hole" and a short video of him undergoing a medical examination.

The Pentagon has argued the pictures did not violate the Geneva Conventions, because it was important to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that Saddam was in custody.

President Bush was asked Friday whether photos of Saddam -- as well as the now-retracted Newsweek story about military interrogators flushing a Quran down a toilet -- serve to inspire opposition in the Muslim world.

He said, "I don't think a photo inspires murderers. I think they're inspired by an ideology that is so barbaric and backwards that it's hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think."

CNN's Roger Clark, Jamie McIntyre, Ed Payne and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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