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and security of prisoners, and who knew, or should have known, of these abuses and looked the other way.
General Taguba's finding that, “personnel assigned to the 372nd Military Police (MP) Company were directed to change facility procedures to set the conditions for military intelligence interrogations,” is bolstered by pictures that suggest that the sadistic abuse was part of an organized and conscious process of intelligence-gathering. In other words, those abusive actions do not appear to be aberrant conduct by individuals, but part of a conscious method of extracting information. If true, the planners of this process are at least as guilty as those who carried out the abuses.
The President's legal counsel, Alberto Gonzalez, reportedly wrote, in a memorandum, that the decision to avoid invoking the Geneva Conventions "preserves flexibility” in the war on terrorism. Belittling or ignoring the Geneva Conventions invites our enemies to do the same, and increases the danger to our military service men and women. It also sends a disturbing message to the world that America does not feel bound by internationally accepted standards of conduct.
The findings of General Taguba's report, as reported on a public Web site, raise a number of disturbing issues. For example, how far up the chain was there implicit or explicit direction or approval or knowledge of these prisoner abuses? Why was a joint interrogation and detention facility at Abu Ghraib established in a way which led to the subordination of the MP brigade to the military intelligence unit conducting interrogation activities? What was the role played by the military intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and any other intelligence units in requesting or suggesting abusive activities? How is it in our Nation's interest to have civilian contractors, rather than military personnel, performing vital national security functions such as prisoner interrogations in a war zone? When soldiers break the law or fail to follow orders, commanders can hold them accountable for their misconduct. Military commanders don't have the same authority over civilian contractors.
Finally, Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers, I join our chairman in expressing deep dismay that when you briefed Senators in a classified session last week on events in Iraq, just hours before the story broke on television, you made no reference to the impending revelations. Executive branch consultation with Congress is not supposed to be an option, but a longstanding and fundamental responsibility.
It is essential that our Nation, at the highest levels, apologize directly to the victims and to the Iraqi people, as a whole, for these actions. But words alone are not sufficient. Prompt and decisive action, which establishes responsibility and holds people accountable, is essential here. It will also, hopefully, convince the world that our free and open society does not condone, and will not tolerate, this depraved behavior.
Chairman WARNER. I'll ask our witnesses to rise. [Witnesses sworn.]
The complete statements of all witnesses will be placed into the record. The committee will now receive the opening remarks of the certain if others desire some recognition for opening remarks; if so, indicate to the chair. Then we'll go into a 6-minute round of questions by each member.
DEFENSE Secretary RUMSFELD. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, in recent days there has been a good deal of discussion about who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am accountable for them, and I take full responsibility. It's my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure that those who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice, and to make changes, as needed, to see that it doesn't happen again.
I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees. They're human beings, and they were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We did not, and that was wrong. So to those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our Nation. It was inconsistent with the teachings of the military to the men and women of the Armed Forces. It was certainly fundamentally un-American.
Further, I deeply regret the damage that has been done. First, to the reputation of the honorable men and women of the Armed Forces, who are courageously, responsibly, and professionally defending our freedoms across the globe. They are truly wonderful human beings, and their families and their loved ones can be enormously proud of them. Second, to the President, Congress, and the American people; I wish I had been able to convey to them the gravity of this before we saw it in the media. Finally, to the reputation of our country.
The photographic depictions of the U.S. military personnel that the public has seen have offended and outraged everyone in the DOD. If you could have seen the anguished expressions on the faces of those in our Department upon seeing those photos, you would know how we feel today.
It's important for the American people and the world to know that while these terrible acts were perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military personnel, they were also brought to light by the honorable and responsible actions of other military personnel.
There are many who did their duty professionally, and we should mention that, as well. First, Specialist Joseph Darby, who alerted the appropriate authorities that abuses were occurring. Second, those in the military chain of command who acted promptly, on learning of those abuses, by initiating a series of investigationscriminal and administrative to assure that abuses were stopped and that the responsible chain of command was relieved and replaced.
Having said that, all the facts that may be of interest are not yet in hand. In addition to the Taguba Report, there are other investigations underway, and we'll be discussing those today. Because all the facts are not in hand, there will be corrections and clarificaFrom the witnesses, you will be told the sequence of events and investigations that have taken place since the activities first came to light. I want to inform you of the measures underway to improve our performance in the future.
Before I do that, let me say that each of us at this table is either in the chain of command or has senior responsibilities in the DOD. This means that anything we say publicly could have an impact on the legal proceedings against those accused of wrongdoing in this matter. So please understand that if some of our responses to questions are measured, it is to assure that pending cases are not jeopardized by seeming to exert command influence, and that the rights of any accused are protected.
Now, let me tell you the measures we're taking to deal with this issue. First, to ensure we have a handle on the scope of this catastrophe, I will be announcing today the appointment of several senior former officials who are being asked to examine the pace, the breadth, the thoroughness of the existing investigations, and to determine whether additional investigations or studies need to be initiated. They're being asked to report their findings within 45 days of taking up their duties. I'm confident that these distinguished individuals will provide a full and fair assessment of what has been done thus far, and recommend whether further steps may be necessary.
(Clarifying information provided by the DOD follows:] Charter for Independent Panel to Review DOD Detention Operations was signed on May 12, 2004. It allots a timeframe to provide advice "preferably within 45 days” after beginning the review. The panel has announced that it will present its final report on August 18, 2004, with the caveat that it could be modified at a later date to reflect the results of reports or investigations completed after that date.
Secretary RUMSFELD. Second, we need to review our habits and our procedures. One of the things we've tried to do in the DOD since September 11 is to try to get the Department to adjust our procedures and processes to reflect that we're in a time of war and that we're in the information age. For the past 3 years, we've looked for areas where adjustments were needed, and we've made a great many adjustments. Regrettably, we've now found another area where adjustments may be needed.
Let me be clear. I failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter of such gravity to the highest levels, including the President and the Members of Congress.
Third, I'm seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation to those detainees who suffered such grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the United States Armed Forces. It's the right thing to do.
I wish we had known more, sooner, and been able to tell you more, sooner. But we didn't. Today, we'll have a full discussion of these terrible acts, but first let's take a step back for a moment. Within the constraints imposed on those of us in the chain of command, I have a few additional words.
First, beyond abuse of prisoners, there are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman. Second, there are many more photographs and, indeed, some videos. Conknow this. In addition, the photos give these incidents a vividness-indeed, a horror-in the eyes of the world. Mr. Chairman, that's why this hearing today is important. That's why the actions we take in the days and weeks ahead are so important.
However terrible the setback, this is also an occasion to demonstrate to the world the difference between those who believe in democracy and in human rights, and those who believe in rule by terrorist code. We value human life. We believe in individual freedom and in the rule of law. For those beliefs, we send men and women of the Armed Forces abroad to protect that right for our own people and to give others, who aren't Americans, the hope of a future of freedom. Part of that mission, part of what we believe in, is making sure that when wrongdoings or scandals do occur, that they're not covered up, but they are exposed, they are investigated, and the guilty are brought to justice.
Mr. Chairman, I know you join me today in saying to the world, "Judge us by our actions. Watch how Americans, watch how a democracy, deals with wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes and our own weaknesses."
After they have seen America in action, then ask those who teach resentment and hatred of America if our behavior doesn't give the lie to the falsehood and the slander they speak about our people and about our way of life. Ask them if the resolve of Americans in crisis and difficulty and, yes, in the heartbreak of acknowledging the evil in our midst, doesn't have meaning far beyond their hatred.
Above all, ask them if the willingness of Americans to acknowledge their own failures before humanity doesn't light the world as surely as the great ideas and beliefs that made this Nation a beacon of hope and liberty for all who strive to be free.
We know what the terrorists will do. We know they will try to exploit all that is bad, and try to obscure all that is good. That's their nature. That's the nature of those who think they can kill innocent men, women, and children to gratify their own cruel will to power. We say to the world, “We will strive to do our best, as imperfect as it may be.”
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
PREPARED STATEMENT BY HON. DONALD H. RUMSFELD Mr. Chairman, members of the committee—thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
In recent days, there has been a good deal of discussion about who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility. It is my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure those who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice, and to make changes as needed to see that it doesn't happen again.
I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees. They are human beings. They were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn't do that. That was wrong.
To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was un-American. It was inconsistent with the values of our Nation.
• First, to the reputation of the honorable men and women of our Armed
• To the reputation of our country.
If you could have seen the anguished expressions on the faces of those of us in the Department upon seeing the photos, you would know how we feel today.
We take this seriously. It should not have happened. Any wrongdoers need to be punished, procedures evaluated, and problems corrected.
It's important for the American people and the world to know that while these terrible acts were perpetrated by a small number of the U.S. military, they were also brought to light by the honorable and responsible actions of other military personnel. There are many who did their duty professionally and we should mention that as well:
• First the soldier, Specialist Joseph Darby, who alerted the appropriate
intolerance of abuses by
were underway. The American people and members of the committee deserve an accounting of what has happened and what's being done to fix it.
Gathered today are the senior military officials with responsibility in the care and treatment of detainees.
The responsibility for training falls to the U.S. Army. The responsibility for the actions and conduct of forces in Iraq falls to the combatant commander. The ultimate responsibility for the DOD rests with me.
Each of us has had a strong interest in getting the facts out to the American people.
We want you to know the facts. I want you to have all the documentation and the data you require. If some material is classified, we will ensure members get an opportunity to see it privately.
Having said that, all the facts that may be of interest are not yet in hand. In addition to the Taguba Report, there are other investigations underway. We will make the results of these investigations available to you. But because all the facts are not in hand, there will be corrections and clarifications to the record as more information is learned. If we have something to add later, we'll do so. If we find something that we've said that needs to be corrected, we'll correct it.
From the other witnesses here, you will be told the sequence of events and investigations that have taken place since these activities first came to light.
What I want to do is inform you of the measures underway to remedy some of the damage done and to improve our performance in the future.
Before I do that, let me make one further note: As members of this committee are aware, each of us at this table is either in the chain of command or has senior responsibilities in the DOD. This means that anything we say publicly could have an impact on legal proceedings against those accused of wrongdoing in this matter. Our responsibility at this hearing, and in our public comments, is to conduct ourselves consistent with that well known fact. So please understand that if some of our responses are measured, it is to ensure that pending cases are not jeopardized by seeming to exert “command influence” and that the rights of any accused are pro