U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he is taking full responsibility for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Rumsfeld said that as secretary of defense, he is accountable for what happened to the prisoners.
He offered what he said was his "deepest apology" to Iraqis who suffered the mistreatment at the hands of U.S. soldiers. He also said he would seek compensation for the victims of abuse.
Mr. Rumsfeld and other military officials testifying at the hearing stressed that the abuses were the actions of a few. One senator, Democrat Carl Levin, pointed out that some of those accused of abusive actions have said they were encouraged by military intelligence officers to "prepare" the prisoners for interrogation. Mr. Rumsfeld said that the matter is being investigated.
Mr. Rumsfeld added that he is appointing senior officials to review investigations already underway and recommend whether further probes are needed. He also said there were more photographs and videotape recordings of abuse.
Shortly after the defense secretary began to speak, protesters in the hearing room interrupted the proceedings with demands that Mr. Rumsfeld be fired. They were escorted from the room by security officials.
Some Democratic lawmakers have called for Mr. Rumsfeld to resign, but President Bush said Thursday that the defense secretary will remain in his cabinet.
The controversy began last week after a U.S. television network aired photos of Iraqi prisoners, some naked, posed in degrading positions.
The chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, told the committee today that he regrets CBS's decision to broadcast the photos.
The general says he asked CBS not to air the photos, citing concern that the photos would anger Iraqis and endanger the lives of U.S. troops and hostages held by Iraqi insurgents.