WASHINGTON – The author of the Pentagon report that found numerous "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib (search) prison complex near Baghdad testified Tuesday that a lack of leadership and supervision were two main reasons for activities that took place there.
Asked by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., exactly how the whole ordeal could have happened, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba (search) replied: "Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision. Supervisory omission was rampant."
Stephen Cambone (search), the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, replied: "It's, for me, hard to explain ... I think what we did have here was a problem of leadership" with the military police unit in charge of the prison.
The testimony came as the Bush administration was deciding whether to publicly release more photos of abuse.
"The criminal acts of a few stand in stark contrast to the highly professional, competent and moral integrity of countless active and guard soldiers that we encountered in this investigation," Taguba testified.
"At the end of a day, a few soldiers … conspired to abuse and conduct egregious acts of violence against detainees and other civilians outside the bounds of international law and the Geneva Convention."
Taguba added that "as agonizing as this investigation was," what cannot be forgotten is the "selfless service of those soldiers and sailors who brought these allegations to light."
Prisoners 'Aren't There for Traffic Violations'
Officials told the panel that they are sorry for what happened and are doing everything in their power to fix the system that allowed it to happen.
"Iraqi detainees are human beings, they were in U.S. custody, we had an obligation to treat them right and we didn't do that," Cambone said. "It was un-American and it was inconsistent with the values of our nation."
The "breakdown" of leadership calls for a "full accounting" of exactly what happened, Warner said.
"The damage done to the reputation and credibility to our nation and the armed forces has the potential to undermine our gains and the sacrifices of our forces … and our allies fighting with us in our cause of freedom."
The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, said the Taguba report details "not only reek of abuse, they reek of an organized effort, a methodical preparation for interrogation."
The dogs, collars and cameras involved "did not suddenly appear out of thin air," Levin continued.
But Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., reminded everyone that the people at Abu Ghraib aren't exactly angels.
"They're not there for traffic violations … these prisoners - they're murderers, they're insurgents, a lot of them probably have American blood on their hands," Inhofe said. "I would guess that these prisoners wake up every morning thanking Allah that Saddam Hussein was not in charge of these prisoners."
Noting that seven "bad guys and gals" in the U.S. military were being punished, "I'm also outraged by the press and the politicians the political agendas that are being served by this," he said. Other Republicans on the panel also accused Democrats of using the issue as a political tool.
"For every picture of abuse or alleged abuse of prisoners, we have pictures of mass graves, pictures of children being executed, pictures of four American" contractors who were killed, bodies burned, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and hung from a bridge, Inhofe continued.
Taguba: 'Softening Up' Not Military Intel Policy
When asked by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., whether the policy of "softening up" detainees for interrogation in Iraq was a military policy, Taguba said he didn't find "any evidence where it was an overall military intelligence policy of the sort."
"I think it was a matter of soldiers with their interaction with military intelligence personnel, who they perceived or thought to be a competent authority, who were influencing their action to set their conditions for a successful interrogation operation," Taguba continued.
Military officials try to determine exactly who -- military police or military intelligence -- gave what orders for interrogation techniques and treatment of the prisoners. Another issue being probed is the role of independent contractors as interrogators.
Taguba said control of the prison was turned over to military intelligence officials and tactical control was taken away from Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (search) of the 800th Military Police Brigade. Cambone said control resided with the military police.
Taguba also said it was against Army rules for intelligence troops to involve military police in setting conditions for interrogations but Cambone said there was nothing wrong with the two groups collaborating.
Karpinski, a general in the Reserves, has been suspended and issued an official letter of admonishment in connection with the abuse. She has not been charged.
Taguba told the panel that his investigators had been told about participation by "other government agencies or contractors," meaning the CIA, in the abuse.
"There were people brought by agency personnel to that place. ... There may have been interrogations conducted by the agency personnel while they were there," Cambone added.
A question left unanswered was what Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller meant in recommending, shortly before the abuses occurred, that military police become involved in "setting conditions" for the successful interrogation of prisoners.
Officials maintained that the Geneva Conventions are supposed to be followed in Iraq; it is not followed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where many Al Qaeda terror suspects are being held.
However, Cambone said that President Bush even wanted Al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay to be treated humanely.
More Pictures Coming
The Pentagon has agreed to disclose unreleased photos and at least one video to the Senate panel. Senators could see the pictures and videos as early as Tuesday.
"Rules of the road must be set out," a senior Senate aide told Fox News. "We aren't just going to bring them up here and leave them. They will be returned to the Pentagon. No copies will be made."
Warner has said he wants to declassify much of the material.
The senior Senate leadership aide said all 100 senators would be permitted to see the newest evidence. Viewing would be restricted to a room in the Capitol to protect against leaks that might violate the privacy of prisoners or endanger the prosecution of any military personnel charged in the case, according to several officials.
"I think that sooner or later, they'll probably be released, probably better sooner," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told Fox News.
In related news, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said U.S.-led coalition intelligence officers had told it that up to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees were arrested by mistake.
A 24-page Red Cross report also cited abuses, some "tantamount to torture," including brutality, forcing people to wear hoods, humiliation and threats of imminent execution.
Fox News' Trish Turner, Ellen Uchimiya and The Associated Press contributed to this report.