updated 8/8/2004 7:21:11 PM ET 2004-08-08T23:21:11

A senator sent the Pentagon a letter Sunday seeking an investigation into a report that U.S. soldiers were ordered to abandon an effort to prevent Iraqi jailers from abusing prisoners.

The request from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld followed a report by The Oregonian newspaper that guardsmen saw dozens of Iraqi prisoners being abused on June 29, Iraq’s first day as a sovereign nation after the U.S.-led invasion last year.

The newspaper reported Sunday that Oregon National Guard soldiers attempted to stop Iraqi jailers from abusing the prisoners but were ordered to return the prisoners to the jailers and leave.

Wyden said the incident suggests that “the policy of the U.S. is that we will no longer engage in torture, but we will turn a blind eye as it is committed by others.”

A Defense Department spokesman in Washington, D.C., said officials will respond to the letter as soon as “the facts surrounding this incident can be determined.”

“Any reports of torture or abuse are investigated thoroughly,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alvin “Flex” Plexico at the Pentagon.

The newspaper had a reporter with the Oregon National Guard 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, when a soldier spotted a man beating a prisoner in a courtyard near the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

Members of that unit later saw other prisoners who appeared to have been beaten and items that could have been used to torture them, including metal rods, rubber hoses, electrical wires and bottles of chemicals. The incident occurred after Iraqi officials announced a crackdown on crime.

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