Home / Senate Report on CIA Torture / President George W. Bush

Senate Report on CIA Torture

President George W. Bush

Accounts differ about how much President Bush was aware of the CIA program, especially in the early years. ”[A]ccording to CIA records, no CIA officer, up to and including CIA Directors George Tenet and Porter Goss, briefed the president on the specific CIA enhanced interrogation techniques before April 2006.” However, Bush ”stated in his autobiography that he discussed the program, including the use of enhanced techniques, with then-[Director of the] CIA [George] Tenet in 2002.” Former Acting General Counsel of the CIA John Rizzo stated that ”the one senior U.S. Government national security official during this time - from August 2002 through 2003 - who I did not believe was knowledgeable about the E.I.T.s [enhanced interrogation techniques] was President Bush himself. He was not present at any of the Principal Committee meetings ... and none of the principals at any of the E.I.T. sessions during this period ever alluded to the President knowing anything about them.”

In July and August 2002, the CIA prepared talking points on its enhanced interrogation techniques for a briefing with the president, but “based on comments from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, the talking points were revised to eliminate references to the waterboard.” However, "CIA records indicated ... that the talking points were not used to brief the president. On August 2, 2002, the National Security Legal Council legal advisor informed the [CIA Director's] chief of staff that '[then National Security Advisor] Dr. [Condoleezza] Rice had been informed that there would be no briefing of the President on this matter,' but that the [CIA Director] had policy approval to employ the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques." 

Later breifings to President Bush on the CIA program contained inaccurate information as to the effectiveness of the program. For example, in November 2007, "the CIA provided eight 'examples of key intelligence collected from CIA detainee interrogations after applying the waterboard along with other interrogation techniques,' seven of which referenced specific terrorist plots or the capture of specific terrorists." However, these examples were "inaccurate and unsupported by CIA records."

Whether or not President Bush intended to mislead the public or was simply repeating inaccurate CIA representations, he made numerous false representations about the program. On September 6, 2006, President Bush publicly disclosed the CIA's enhanced interrogation program in a speech "based on CIA information and vetted by CIA personnel." The speech "contained inaccurate statements, especially regarding the significance of information acquired from CIA detainees and the effectiveness of the CIA's interrogation techniques." For example, President Bush stated that "[Abu] Zubaydah was questioned using [the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques], and soon [Zubaydah] began to provide information on key al Qa'ida operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th ... and helped lead to the capture of [Ramzi] bin al Shibh." Yet "[a] review of CIA records found no connection between Abu Zubaydah's reporting on Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Ramzi bin al-Shibh's capture. CIA records indicate that Ramzi bin al-Shibh was captured unexpectedly - on September 11, 2002, when Pakistani authorities ... were conducting raids targeting Hassan Ghul in Pakistan."

In 2008, "President Bush vetoed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 that [would have] banned coercive interrogation." In his radio address, the president "stated that the CIA program had a 'proven track record' and that he CIA obtained 'critical intelligence' as a result of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques."