The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'Fox News Sunday,' May 16, 2004.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Over the past 10 days, the Senate Armed Services Committee has grilled top Bush administration officials and Pentagon brass about the prisoner abuse scandal. The ranking Democrat on that panel joins us now from Detroit, Senator Carl Levin.
And, Senator, welcome. Good to have you with us.
U.S. SENATOR CARL LEVIN, D-MI: Good to be with you, Chris.
WALLACE: As you just heard, we asked Secretary Powell about this New Yorker article that alleges that Secretary Rumsfeld last year approved extending more aggressive interrogation techniques to Iraq. What do you know about it, and what are you going to do to find out?
LEVIN: Well, we're going to do everything we can to find out. There was a commitment on the part of Senator Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to hold extensive hearings into the prisoner abuses even before this New Yorker article came out.
I haven't read the article. It just came out I guess yesterday. But I'm sure that the statements which were made in that article will be part of the investigation, but they're far more extensive than just this one article.
WALLACE: Specifically, are you looking into the role -- a man who's mentioned a lot in this article -- of Undersecretary for Intelligence Cambone, Stephen Cambone?
LEVIN: Well, he will be one of -- surely one of the focuses of the investigation, the inquiry by the Armed Services Committee, since he's the head of intelligence for Secretary Rumsfeld.
WALLACE: Senator, you said at this week's hearings that these were not the spontaneous actions of low-ranked enlisted people. What hard evidence do you have that this went up the chain of command, that they were specifically ordered or encouraged to engage in this kind of abuse?
LEVIN: Their testimony to General Taguba, who wrote a report, that we have the statements that were given to him by the military police that says that the military intelligence were the ones that urged them on to "soften up the prisoners," in their words, so that they could obtain and extract intelligence information.
The pictures themselves show evidence, not just the ones that have been published but the unpublished ones, show evidence of method, of organization, of the presence of people in that room with the MPs, for instance, of that one particular prison, who were involved in obtaining the information through the kind of physical abuses and humiliation that we saw. This is much more than just a few MPs in a room. These were many people standing there, helping to organize these physical abuses.
So it's a combination of the report by General Taguba himself, with statements, plus the pictures themselves, and also, by the way, the International Red Cross has those findings, that this was all part of an intelligence-gathering operation, and it was, quote, "part of the process," the acts of humiliation and the abuses were a part of a process, not just the spontaneous actions of a few MPs.
WALLACE: But, Senator, let's try to break that down just a little bit, whether this was something that was happening at the cell- block level, or if it went up the chain of command.
Specialist Jeremy Sivits, who faces a court martial this week, it's turned out that he has told military investigators that the chain of command didn't know about it. Here's what he had to say: "Our commanders would have slammed us. They believe in doing the right thing. If they saw what was going on, there would be hell to pay."
Senator, is there any reason not to believe Jeremy Sivits?
LEVIN: Yes, a lot of reasons: the ones I just gave, including the testimony to General Taguba by many, many people, of many MPs, as well as the pictures themselves. Again, this is not just a few MPs in a room. These are other people who are standing there, helping to organize these activities. Plus the report of the International Red Cross, which has loads of evidence that this is not just a few MPs.
This was extensive. This lasted a long period of time. It was at more than one place, by the way. More than one detention facility was involved. A number of prisons were involved in the use of abusive practices, and also over an extensive period of time.
These complaints of the International Red Cross were made not just to the Central Command early last year, but also at the highest levels in our government, as you just heard from Secretary Powell. He heard from the International Red Cross back in May.
He said then that he expected that there would be corrections made, but he did not say, nor do we yet know, what did he, what did Condi Rice, what did Secretary Rumsfeld do after they heard these complaints from the International Red Cross, of serious violations. They weren't the same type of sexual abuse yet, but once you open the door to serious violations, if you do not act on them, it leads to worse and worse violations.
WALLACE: Senator, I want to pick up on General Taguba, who you keep bringing up, because he was asked directly at the hearings that you were at who ordered these actions, and here's what he had to say. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR GENERAL ANTONIO TAGUBA: Sir, we did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did. I believe that they did it on their own volition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVIN: Yes. He was told to look just into the MP brigade. He was not told to look into the military intelligence brigade that his own report indicates that the military intelligence brigade was coordinating with.
In his words, at that hearing, in a piece that you didn't play, he said that the military police collaborated -- that was his word -- with the military intelligence. So that was a part of the hearing which was not on that one particular piece that you played.
But if you look at the direction that was given to Taguba, he was just focusing on the military police brigade. His investigation was not on the military intelligence unit that was there.
WALLACE: I think what he said, actually, is he said that they were probably influenced by others, but not specifically ordered. But let me move on, if I might.
You have been very critical of Secretary Rumsfeld's failure to deal with this issue earlier. Let's go over the time line. The military announced that it was investigating these abuses on January 16th. It then announced that it was bringing charges in mid-March.
As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, what action did you take between January and March, sir?
LEVIN: Well, we didn't have the information, of course, that Rumsfeld had in January. But you're starting a year late. You have to go back to early in '03, not '04, when the International Red Cross first brought these abuse -- not this type precisely of abuses, but serious abuses of the Geneva Conventions to the attention of the Central Command. This was a year before there was significant reports to the command, both in July and in September of '03, very specifically laying out very physical abuses. So you have to start back there in the various places...
WALLACE: But, Senator, if I may...
WALLACE: Senator, if I may, let's stay, if we can, in 2004, or you can tell us what you did or didn't do in 2003. But specifically between January and...
LEVIN: It's not what we didn't do in 2003, it's what the military didn't do under the leadership of Rumsfeld a year before this was made public just a few months ago. That's when I first learned about it.
WALLACE: I guess what I'm asking you is, as the ranking Democrat in the Senate Armed Services Committee -- this was announced to the world. I agree that it wasn't a big story, but I remember reading about it, that there were allegations and investigations of abuse starting in January of 2004. Then they announced two months later that they were bringing charges against six people.
As the ranking Democrat on the committee that oversees the Pentagon, what did you do about it? Did you call for hearings? Did you get in contact with the Pentagon?
LEVIN: The very tiny little press release which was issued by Central Command in January of 2004 in no way signified the depth of the abuses. It just simply said there are allegations of abuses at a prison that are being investigated. That makes it sound very routine, not extensive.
LEVIN: And these were extensive abuses in many prisons, starting a year before, of which we had no knowledge. And we do not know what actions the Central Command took, if any, during that year.
But the first any evidence of any kind that we've had is that little press release that you mentioned issued by the Central Command in early '04. That is not a notification of extensive abuses at all to anybody.
WALLACE: What about in mid-March when they announced that they were bringing charges, criminal charges, against six MPs for their actions, for abuses in the prison? And they talked about some of the specific abuses.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is, did you, as well as the secretary, fail to take action until the story broke and we saw all the pictures on television?
LEVIN: Well, in March -- the first time we learned about it is when we were told that actions were being taken against soldiers for abuses. That's a year after our military leadership and our civilian leadership in the Pentagon and our civililan leadership in this country were notified personally by the International Red Cross that there were abuses going on both in Guantanamo and...
WALLACE: Senator, I understand that, but, in fact, in March...
LEVIN: I know that. But we were not given that notice by the International Red Cross a year earlier. The first we learned about it is when there was an information just a few months ago that action was being taken against soldiers for abuses. So that's a totally different piece of a time line.
WALLACE: And in March, after that notice...
LEVIN: What we were told is that action was being taken.
WALLACE: ... did you take action?
LEVIN: We were told that action was being taken. That's the information that we got -- that we received. So that's a very totally different thing from what we did not receive and never knew of, which the administration knew of, both militarily and in the civilian leadership, a year earlier, directly from the mouth of the president of the International Red Cross. That was not brought to the attention of the Armed Services Committee.
WALLACE: Senator, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you very much for joining us today.
LEVIN: Thank you, Chris.