WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday got a heavy dose of disturbing photographs and videos taken at Abu Ghraib (search) prison in Iraq.
"More of the same. They're terrible, just terrible," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., after seeing the pictures.
"Same as the others. Disgusting," said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.
Senators and representatives were shown about 1,800 pictures and videos captured by digital cameras. They were in addition to pictures that have been made public over the past three weeks.
"I expected that these pictures would be very hard on the stomach lining and it was significantly worse than anything that I had anticipated," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "Take the worst case and multiply it several times over."
According to senators who saw the films, the video quality wasn't great, but they were still graphic. One clip shows prisoners masturbating, another shows a prisoner chained to the wall trying to knock himself unconscious. Still others show military dogs snarling at prisoners and Iraqi women exposing their breasts, senators said.
Some of the pictures contain depictions of sexual intercourse between military personnel. Other pictures were also sexually graphic, but Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he saw no clear instance of rape or sodomy, though some photos depicted abusive techniques worse than those already seen.
"I don't know how the hell these people got into our Army," said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., after viewing the images.
"There were several pictures of Iraqi women who were disrobed or putting their shirts up," he said. "They were not smiling in the pictures, that's for sure. But it didn't look like they had been beaten or hurt."
He also said there were several pictures with dogs. "Iraqis were against the wall and you could see that the dogs were pretty much terrorizing them because the dogs were snarling and crouching like they were about to attack," he added.
The Pentagon agreed to show the photos to lawmakers in a private and secured viewing room in the Capitol. Lawmakers were not permitted to release the photos, as the Pentagon feared that the images could heighten international anger about the abuses. The Defense Department (search) also warned lawmakers that releasing the photos to the public would interfere with an ongoing military criminal investigation and would violate the Privacy Act (search), which protects U.S. citizens' identities.
Before senators were able to see the new photos, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he prefers the Pentagon release the photos due to civil rights concerns, but barring those issues, "transparency is the best policy."
But after seeing the photos, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said making the images public could "possibly endanger the men and women of the armed forces." He and others also said public release could jeopardize the prosecution of U.S. personnel who were involved in the abuse.
On Tuesday, a videotape aired on the Internet showed Al-Qaeda linked militants beheading American Nick Berg, 26, for what they said was revenge for abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.
On Wednesday, President Bush rejected such excuses and said there is no way terrorists can make any claims to justify their actions. He vowed to find the killers.
"I want to express my condolences to the family and friends of Nicholas Berg. Nicholas Berg was an innocent civilian who was in Iraq to help build a free Iraq. There is no justification for the brutal execution of Nicholas Berg — no justification whatsoever," he said.
"Their intention is to shake our will. Their intention is to shake our confidence. Yet, by their actions, they remind us of how desperately parts of the world need free societies and peaceful societies," the president added.
The White House said the administration also rejects Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe's criticism that the fuss over the Abu Ghraib abuses comes from "do-gooders" and obscures the sacrifices of U.S. troops. Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the president sees the abuses as "shameful acts" that don't represent the military.
Several lawmakers said any effort to equate the abuse at the prison with the beheading conducted by terrorists just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
"I don't want my Army, my government using the standard of 'We're not as bad as them.' That's not the standard," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a colonel in the Army reserves and a judge advocate general.
"These people were murderers and animals long before they captured [Berg]. ... We have to follow these people to the gates of hell if that's what it takes ... they are truly the enemy of everything we believe."
"We should not forget that our enemies are incredibly more evil" than anything depicted in the prison photos, said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who added that the photos revealed "pretty twisted minds doing this kind of stuff."
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., agreed that the pictures deepen "the conclusion that this was a cellblock that had gone wild, had no standards." But several lawmakers said the abuse scandal goes far above a few enlisted soldiers and should be investigated up the chain of command.
On Tuesday, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba told Congress he believed the pictures were taken by military personnel using their personal digital cameras, but the mistreatment was the result of faulty leadership, a "lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision" of the reservists who had been called up for duty in postwar Iraq. He said he found no evidence of systematic abuse in other prisons and said the problem does not go all the way up to the top of the military.
The images and news of prisoner abuse has led some Democrats to raise fresh questions about administration policy in Iraq. But for the most part, lawmakers agreed that the acts spoke for themselves.
"What is depicted here in terms of the treatment of detainees is a matter of public policy, what the other matters are are a matter of personal disgrace," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Fox News' Wendell Goler, Major Garrett and Molly Hooper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.