WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday that his worst day in office was the day he learned about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
"You know, clearly, the worst day was Abu Ghraib and seeing that -- what went on there and feeling so deeply sorry that that happened," he said.
A U.S. soldier reported the abuse, and provided pictures of some of it, to his chain of command in January 2004. While the military announced there was an investigation into the mistreatment of detainees, it was not until April that the full scope of what had occurred was revealed, when CBS News aired photos of the abuse, including an image of a hooded, naked prisoner standing on a box, and of an Iraqi prisoner on a leash.
"I remember being stunned by the news of the abuse at Abu Ghraib, and then watching so many determined people spend so many months trying to figure out exactly how in the world something like that could have happened and how to make it right, and then seeing how the department eventually demonstrated to the world how our democracy deals openly and decisively with such egregious wrongdoing," Rumsfeld told an audience at his 43rd and last "town hall meeting," the sometimes freewheeling forum where Pentagon employees and military personnel can ask any question they want.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First contend Rumsfeld is responsible for the abuses because he authorized harsher interrogation techniques for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Those techniques -- using dogs to scare prisoners and stripping prisoners, among others -- later migrated to Abu Ghraib and other prisons. The Pentagon has since disavowed those techniques.
The ACLU is suing Rumsfeld on behalf of nine alleged abuse prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Justice Department says Rumsfeld has legal immunity.